I graduated in 2012 with an MBA and was so excited when I landed my first interview for an accounting job with a well-established accounting firm in London, UK. I really wanted to impress them. Fast forward to interview day and I’m so ready. I’m wearing my favourite African print blazer, black skirt and low court shoes – I couldn’t have been more pretty! I arrived an hour early and sat at reception, everyone was looking at me – especially at my blazer. I felt confident, and with all eyes on me I figured that I really looked the part too. I remember thinking that I would definitely bring some colours with me if I was hired. Oh, how naïve I was…
I could not have been more prepared and I completely aced the interview, I knew I had the job. Just as I was about to leave the interviewer stopped and asked, ‘So Christelle, if you worked here would we always expect to see you in such bright colours and prints?’ I smiled cheerfully and innocently replied, ‘Oh yes of course I love wearing prints!’ That blazer was hot, people had been staring at it the whole way there! My interviewer then told me that the office had a very strict dress code; nothing colourful and minimal prints. I knew straight away that I wouldn’t be happy working there, or at any other office job for that matter. Where would I get a job given that most accounting firms have a similar strict dress code? If I couldn’t be myself then I knew that I had to change my career, but how could I do that after studying right up to a Masters degree? How could I start all over again? I had people depending on me.
About a week later I called my twin sister Michele. I told her I was coming back to Cameroon. It was a sad time for us and we really didn’t have any money but despite that we decided to take a huge leap of faith. We were going to start selling the type of African print dresses that we loved and that made us feel good. I had £50 left in my pocket after returning from the UK and no formal experience in fashion, all I had was the strong desire to succeed. In March of 2013 Grass-Fields (formerly known as The African Shop) was born. My day to day activities haven’t changed much from the beginning; I’m still responsible for organising photoshoots, designs, marketing and most importantly finance – and I get to do it all wearing the brightest, boldest African prints I want!