The showroom is a veritable jewel-casket. Each piece from the new collection Plein Soleil (‘Full sunlight’) is displayed like a precious gem. We are on Rue du Tribunal in Douala, at the headquarters of Kreyann’, the upscale ready-to-wear label created by stylist Anna Ngann Yonn. The dazzling colours and filmy, fluid fabrics come from all over the world, crafted here into a comfortable, relaxing collection to be premiered this May. Anna Ngann Yon is a welcoming hostess: sixty pieces designed over the past fourteen years are displayed in an adjoining room, she says. Including her favourite: a long skirt with unpressed pleats and a flounced hem, split high up the front, full and sweeping at the ankle. Worn with a transparent, flesh-coloured blouse printed with leaf motifs, this outfit is the essence of Kreyann’ style: simple, understated, with a mix of close-fitting and full shapes, structured but soft, in bright, natural colours. The Kreyann’ woman is elegant, with touches of sophistication, but above all open to world cultures – a tribute, no doubt, to Anna Ngann Yonn’s memories of her mother, who did much to influence and inspire her vocation.
Travelling extensively, she brought ever-more astonishing outfits home. As the youngest of three children, Anna took a special delight in unpacking her treasures. She is eternally grateful to her parents for enrolling her at ESMOD International in Paris – one of France’s most prestigious fashion schools – despite their better judgement (they had dreamed of a medical career for their daughter), and the prohibitive cost. Arriving in Paris, Anna Ngann Yonn fell in love with Christian Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent: ‘They were inspired by Africa, and by world cultures. Their only standard was absolute chic, and excellence.‘ Dedicated to the same cause, 43-year-old Anna takes fabrics – their colour, texture and motifs – as the starting-point for her designs. She is always on the look-out for fine, unusual fabrics, and often adds her own finishing touches: delicate beadwork, a subtle draped effect, or a crumpled finish, bringing the surface to life. ‘So that every Kreyann’ woman can be confident she’s wearing a truly unique piece.‘
A mother of three, Anna is widely hailed by her co-professionals as a force for good in the fashion world. She campaigns for better training for young people, invites top couture names to Cameroon, bringing an international dimension to the country’s fashion events, and launched her very own fashion week, the K-Walk, showcasing her label. The event was held for the first time in 2011, to mark Kreyann’s tenth anniversary. The Cameroon designer heads a small team of ten. Proud of her financial track record (she has never taken out a loan or received a state grant), she is preparing to open a second studio and showroom in Yaoundé. Convinced that passion and enthusiasm are the secrets to success, she regularly takes part in Paris’s ready-to-wear salons, and one-off events organised by leading labels. A recent example was the closing event of Women’s Month in the Democratic Republic of Congo, organised by Vlisco in March 2014. She was delighted to be involved, she says: Vlisco have understood that wax print cottons can be used without falling into the trap of folksiness or ‘African fancy dress’. Adapting African styles to the international market: a philosophy close to her heart, and that of every Kreyann’ woman.
Anna Ngann Yonn is the designer behind ready-to-wear label Kreyann’. She lives and works in Douala (Cameroon). Her work currently features alongside that of other top African designers in the exhibition Fashioning Africa at the Museum of African Design (MOAD) in Johannesburg,