ON THE ROAD OF MY INVISIBLE THREAD
When she was just a little girl, Alvine discovered a new hobby. It just took a doll, needles, fabric, and a few pieces of string. And voilà! She soon crowned herself Queen of the Barbie catwalks. The little girl’s hobby quickly developed into a young woman’s calling. The custom-made outfits she designed for herself drew more and more admiration first from high school classmates, and later from college friends.
With her Law Degree in hand, Alvine’s future looked bright and promising. She perfectly mastered all the subtleties of legal codes. However, she chose to break a different type of code. The social codes and norms of a conservative society that believed fashion and design was nothing more than futile.
In 1996, this petite woman found herself in the spotlight alongside two big names in African fashion: Alphadi and José Esam. Their encouragement was exhilarating. The famous designer who set up a catwalk in the Niger desert urges to relentlessly pursue her dreams. So why hesitate? Her designs made from organic materials made her realize there was a golden opportunity she could unearth from the depths of her native Grassfields. Alvine is fascinated by the ceremonial regalia of the Bamiléké nobility, and subtly tries to define a new aesthetic that mixes tradition and modernity, and weaves past and present, North and South together.
“I use wax prints. This fabric originates from Indonesia and in about two centuries became an authentic of national pride in sub-Saharan Africa. The cotton damask in vibrant colors called Bazin. I also use age-old fabrics like Ndop and Toghu from Cameroon, Bogolan from Mali, Kita (or Kefnte) from Ghana, Batik and Melhfa from Mauritania, Kano from Nigeria. I combine these noble materials with equally rich fabrics such as taffeta, organza, Duchess satin and silk Mikado to create my main pieces.”
When it comes to design, Alvine pulls out all the stops be it in designing clothes or accessories. Her eclectic approach to design leads her to incorporate raffia straw, ebony or bronze into her creations, for example when restoring the past splendor of traditional clothes.
Driven by the desire to refine her art, the punctilious self-taught designer headed to Venice Italy, where she enrolled in a fashion school and obtained her diploma in Industrial Fashion Design. “ I’m above all a costumier at heart,” says Alvine.
While working on her jewelry collection for a festival, she made a discovery that would later on breathe new life into the work of the Murano glassmakers and beadmakers. “ In 2002, I discovered the secret connection between these master glassmakers and the traditional dignitaries of the Bamiléké people, in western Cameroon” Alvine explains.
This came as a revelation for this designer whose relationship to fashion is almost anthropological.
In 2005, Alvine carried out a project called “Heart to heart with the women of Africa” with the leather goods brand Caleidos. This project was truly close to her heart as it encompassed ethical, eco-friendly and sustainable values. During her mission in Bamako, she worked in women’s cooperatives that produced the Bogolan she used in her magnificent “Fetish Bag” collection. One thousand handbags were produced to sensational headlines and the acclaim landed her a “Premio Nord Est Aperto” award for “Operosità e integrazione interculturale” (Industry and Intercultural Integration).
Alvine’s distinctive signature is using ancestral techniques in a contemporary spin. “I weave my vision of a fashion without borders for a free woman, who is very attentive to the challenges of her time as well as to the future. A true cosmopolitan amazon who is both fragile and strong, sensitive yet determined. A chic warrior who knows how to rise back up after each fall like a phenix. This is the real elegance that radiates from inside and is sublimated in my dresses, jackets, kabas, knitwears and accessories.”
A meeting in Milan in 2002 with Donna Karan and with late Franca Sozzani also inspired her. “They said we African designers should develop projects. The advice was an epiphany and moved me to open “Gic les Pétales ” _in Cameroon which is sponsored by Intimissimi-Calzedonia. The aim of this NGO is to train young and handcraftswomen in careers in the fashion industry”.
In 2007, Alvine produced a collection of sarongs for Intimissimi using Mauritanian Melhfa in cotton veil tie and die prints. Her clothes items are distributed throughout the world and in Saman Shop in Milan.
After living between Italy and Cameroon for most of her life, Alvine relocated to Venice two years ago to continue her journey on the road of her invisible thread.