The incredible story of how one woman from Cameroon founded her very own African fashion brand in Washington State, USA.
African women are great mothers. They are magnificent cooks and very devoted lovers. But, let’s face it. They aren’t among the world’s best-travelled women. Most women born in Africa stay and only travel within Africa. When they do leave, however, African femmes do great things proving that indeed they can do anything!
If you don’t believe me just ask Christelle of Luchrist Modern African fashion. She should know– she started the first African clothing store in Washington state and has continued to smash one glass ceiling after another.
Let’s Shine a Light on Christelle Patricia Tsakou
Christelle’s achievements are by no means small. She was born and raised in Cameroon in West Africa and has battled many odds to make real a fantasy that most people only dream of. She has her very own fashion house in America, thousands of miles away from where she was born!
Imagine that— She’s grown from a simple girl in Cameroon to a magnificent woman who’s pushing boundaries and influencing how other people dress and live.
Francis of Afrikagora caught up Christelle and she told him of her incredible journey to building a successful African fashion business right here in the US.
It All Begins with A Dream
The world we see today was once just a dream in the hearts of the incredible individuals who dared to change their world. Indeed, Christelle’s story demonstrates clearly that dreams do come true—but through hard work, dedication and sacrifice.
“I always dreamt of opening a fashion store in a shopping mall. So, I saved and saved and saved until I had enough to start my own boutique.” – Christelle
Today, she owns Luchrist Modern African Fashion Shop on 1 Bellis Fair Pkwy, Bellingham, WA, USA which was launched in 2017. This fashion shop provides current, fashionable, and stylish African wear and accessories for all genders and has a goal of making African print accessible to international Audiences.
Christelle’s shop offers hand-crafted pieces that are sourced from different partners in Africa. Each piece in that shop is beautiful—and I say that because I have been there. Luchrist offers outfits that are bold, exceptional and timeless.
Take their matching set of sandals, bangles, pursues, necklaces and earrings, for example. They will match perfectly with most outfits in your closet and they will look absolutely great.
Luchrist’s outfits are one-of-a-kind treasures and Christelle says that she’d love to, one day, dress queen Beyoncé herself!!
Research, Work Hard and Commit
Almost everyone knows that the distance between a dream and turning it into a great business can be quite large. The fact is many people have great dreams and business ideas but most of them don’t actually have a clue on how they can turn those dreams and ideas into reality.
So, how exactly did Christelle do it? How did she turn her passion for fashion into a lucrative business?
Interestingly, Christelle’s love for African fashion didn’t start until she was out of Africa!
But once she realized how important it is to highlight the beauty of African culture, she was determined to become an active ambassador for African culture and diversity. So, she started by doing tons of research to learn everything she could about African fashion, culture and heritage. She then worked hard to bring Africa to light– a rich and beautiful continent that has long been painted as a dark and dejected place.
Until the story is told by the lion, the hunter will forever be the hero of the story. So, Christelle decided to tell our story- the beautiful and glorious story of our African culture and heritage. And there’s no better way of telling it than through fashion.
“Every print in my store tells a story. I want everyone who wears a piece from my store to feel a sense of pride in their African heritage when they wear my outfits.” – Christelle
Starting A Business in America Won’t Make You Rich Overnight
Starting any business is hard work. Christelle told us that in the earlier days of starting her business she had to sew her designs by herself. Besides that, starting her company needed a lot of dedication and sacrifice
“I worked so hard I barely had time for my family.” – Christelle
And as we learnt, building a successful business is a process. It happens in stages, gradually transitioning from a small startup to a glorious business. In the beginning, Christelle only worked with artisans from Cameroon. Half a year later, she had expanded into Senegal and Benin. About one year after, that she was shipping from Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar.
It’s Not Just About the Dollar
For Christelle it’s not just about turning a profit, she’s keen on helping others too
Obviously, everyone starts their business with their eyes on the profit. However, great entrepreneurs like Christelle are also committed to making lives better for everyone they come into contact with.
“My products are hand-made by real people. Therefore, when you buy from me, you are directly supporting women and young workers in Africa.” – Christelle
In fact, Christelle reports most of the artists from whom she buys have realized growth and improved livelihoods.
“Most of our partner artisans used to work from home but now their businesses have grown; some even have small companies that employ between 5 and 20 people.” – Christelle
Miss Ebony World
Of course, Christelle is grateful that her business has helped many people in Africa. But what she’s most proud of is what she been doing to uplift communities right here in the USA.
Christelle is a co-founder of the African Descent Empowerment Society and the Founder and CEO of Miss Ebony World. Through these two platforms, she aspires to unite, strengthen and bring together people of the African diaspora.
“Young African girls started coming to my store with stories of abuse by those who adopted them here in America. I realized that I could create a platform for them to speak about issues that mattered to them. So, I created Miss Ebony World.” – Christelle
Many people, myself included, often think of fashion as being only skin deep. But as Christelle revealed it can be much more than that.
Miss ebony world is a space for diversity and inclusivity. And a place where different beauty standards from different African countries are accepted. Additionally, through Miss Ebony World, Christelle has created a platform for young African girls in the diaspora to promote their advocacies. And there’s no limit to what advocacies the beauty queens can promote— be it education, women empowerment, social justice, gender issues, etc.
There’s a lot that’s happening in Miss Ebony World and we can’t possibly fit it all in this article. So, we’ll be doing a special, exclusive piece about Miss Ebony World in the coming weeks and you definitely should check it out once it’s posted.
Her Family Comes First
Whilst Christelle continues to make her mark in business, fashion, advocacy, and philanthropy, she’s also keen on creating a family legacy. She admits that even though she works hard, she’s is ultimately very family-oriented.
She continually tries to be the best wife and mother she can be.
“My family comes first. I always have time for my kids because I want to be a strong and positive role model to each one of them. I also want to be the perfect woman for my husband”-Christelle
An Inspiration to The African Child
Christelle’s story is an inspiration to every black child out there telling them that they can go from being small and ordinary to burning bright and proud on foreign lands.
So, no matter where you were born, where you are right now or what your hopes and dreams are, you have a duty to be great. Like Christelle, you too can be a brilliant example of #BlackExcellence!
As you can see, Francis had quite an interesting conversation with Christelle. And believe me, we’ll tell you all about it in our upcoming articles. For instance, did you know that when the odds were stacked against her? Watch for our next article to find out more.
Story by Matthew M.