Since its launch in 2017, this 100% Cameroonian clothing brand has achieved increasing success.
The inventory was used up within six hours. Starting from this Sunday in March, Cameroonian brand Lakelle’s long floral dress “Yendo” of all sizes has come out. On the hashtag Instagram page, I heard the regret of late customers. ” How do i miss it Chris Carnell sighed. ” I am M code, I want », please Nella.
Since the launch of Lakelle in 2017, this phenomenon has been a classic. The brand continues to gain followers in Cameroon, even outside the national borders is also extremely tempting. Orders from France, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon increased with the release of each new dress, skirt and jumpsuit. Their prices average between 4,000 and 18,000 CFA francs (6 to 27 euros) per item.
« Chic, stylish, simple, accessible and affordable »Welcome co-founder Sharon Welang to her office, which is located in the Bonanjo brand showroom in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon.
It all started in 2008. After studying finance and entrepreneurship in the United States, Sharon returned to Cameroon to work for a mobile phone company. But the young woman struggled to find suitable clothes to go to work. Having lived in Zara and H&M, she must look elsewhere. Neither of these brands have stores in Cameroon.
Sharon often goes to the Nkolouloun market in Duala, where she buys second-hand thrift stores, sometimes at twice what she spends on American clothing.
When talking with her little sister Viola, she was also passionate about American fashion. Her ideas came from Maryland, and they opened franchise rights for these brands in their home country. The two sisters wrote to H&M Group without asking any questions about the financial cost and logistical feasibility of the project.
« They answered politely that they have no representation in Africa and it is not the time yet », interestingly remember Sharon. “Why not create your own brand »Then he was launched at Viola Welang, almost unaffected by rejection. The project was born.
I quickly found the name: it will be Lakelle, a tribute to the role of Kelly in the American film series. Santa BarbaraBroadcast on the national television station CRTV. In Boua, southwest, one of the two English-speaking regions in southwest Cameroon, the two women liked to watch soap when they were very young.
It will take a long time to reflect, because Sharon has just left another position and is sailing between Cameroon and South Africa. ” If you do not have a business in Cameroon, you will not be able to start a business.I have to find the moment when I have to become more stable », she pointed out.
Starting in 2015, Sharon reduced his travels and moved to Duala, took French lessons and learned about fashion. In Maryland, Viola spent several months trying to better understand the world of glitter and the secrets of Zara. In 2017, experimentation began with the design of tailors and websites that now sell models. Next is the first batch of clothes displayed in a shop in Douala. Customers immediately liked it. Since then, the two sisters have been inspired by the latest trends in the fashion industry and designed their own models before sending them to the studio.
Over the past four years, more than 10,000 pieces made of cotton, sequins, chiffon or lace have been sold. An average of 6 million CFA francs per month (approximately 9,000 euros). Lakelle employs 26 full-time staff and 7 part-time staff, including models and photographers.
In a clothing workshop a few kilometers from the showroom, Ivoline Rinyu walks between fourteen sewing machines and a cloudy sky machine. She was the first tailor retained at the end of the testing phase, and in the past three years, she has improved her style. She who hosted the seminar today dreamed of seeing ” Lakelle grew up and is worn by all Cameroonians ».
Sharon and Viola Waleng share ambitions and they launched a men’s and women’s collection in 2020. The two sisters believe that their brand is ” Zara in Africa is reasonably priced and has our own characteristics.” But they still have challenges to overcome. The main one? Fabric supply. Lakelle obtains its supplies from the Congo market in Douala, while traders obtain supplies in Nigeria from traders who have been to China or North Korea. At the end of the chain, viola and salons are not always able to obtain quality and quantity. Therefore, the stock is limited, 50 to 200 pieces per model.
In order to enter China directly, they plan to raise 50 million CFA francs this year. The money should also enable them to purchase new machines and accessories to meet demand, open a second factory in Douala, and promote sales in other countries.
« At first, many people did not believe us. Today, together with our employees, we have such a beautiful vision. We are only 5% of what we want to achieve “Viola is passionate, and she intends to return to Cameroon like her sister. In the long run, they plan to establish a manufacturing plant in Douala and start producing accessories and beauty products. Then, why not open a Lakelle franchise in Africa and around the world? ?