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The odds were stacked against us...

The odds were stacked against us...

As stated by Christelle in last week's post, it was Friday in Cameroon, the weather was incredibly hot and as always, we were working hard on Grass-Fields.

In all honesty, we were struggling. Our tailor had seemed like a brilliant option at first, as he was a popular fashion designer in our home town. As time passed however, we came to realise that he had misled us as to just how much he was willing to do for us and how long it would take him to do it.

We had paid him up front to make our garments, but we weren't seeing any results. Christelle and I went to him every week for a month, asking to see progress and reminding him that we had deadlines to meet for our valued customers. He would tell us that everything was fine, or try and placate us with false excuses. It was disheartening to learn that not only had he not completed our orders, but he also wanted more money on top of what we had already given him so he could ‘buy more material’. It quickly became clear to us that he was trying to stall for time, and it was devastating. How could we get our products to customers if the man we had trusted and paid to create them was not doing his job?

At this point, the only money we had left was reserved for shipping. We also had orders that needed to be sent on Sunday, so we decided that we would go to his workshop and collect our items, regardless of whether they were ready or not, and try to come up with another solution. We needed to have the clothes ready to ship to our customers within the time we had promised.

Upon arriving at the tailor's shop, we received more bad news. Not only were our pieces nowhere near completion, but the tailor himself wasn't even there; he'd flown to Paris for a fashion show. As you would expect, we were completely taken aback by his disregard for us. We were furious in fact. We had paid him with our hard-earned money, but he didn't seem to care.

I know that Christelle blamed herself for the whole situation, as it was her that had convinced me to trust the tailor in the first place, but now was not the time to be assigning blame. We had to pick ourselves up and push forward to solve the problem. Under no circumstances would we stand by and watch Grass-Fields suffer as a result of someone else's indifference. It was time to find ourselves a new tailor; somebody with the talent, standards and quality we demanded. Someone we could whole-heartedly rely on.

With this in mind, I worked from an internet cafe to further develop the Grass-Fields profile, whilst my sister ventured into town with the unenviable task of sourcing new fabric and finding us that tailor we so desperately needed. I remember feeling slightly nervous when she left, wondering how on earth she was going to pull it off because, at the time, it seemed near impossible. Even if she did manage to find a tailor, we had back orders and zero funds. Some days we could barely afford to eat, how on earth could we pay a new tailor? The only way Christelle was going to get hold of material was if she literally begged for credit from the fabric seller. The odds were most definitely stacked against us.

african market

(Credit: Lisa Aronson)

A few hours passed, and I had managed to distract myself setting up our Etsy seller's page. Knowing my sister and her perseverance, I was certain she would not return until she had managed to find a way out of this mess. I wasn't sure how long it would be before I heard from her again, but I knew that she would come through for us. Somehow, I just knew....

Of course, I was right!

I met up with Christelle a little while later and to my delight, she was clutching bags of fabric and had a big smile on her face. I sensed the good news before she even opened her mouth to tell me. She'd found him. A kind, talented, yet quiet man named Ahmed. I was totally astounded! My sister was absolutely convinced that a chance encounter with a tailor who was in the process of being evicted from his work space for failing to pay his rent had brought us exactly what we needed. Christelle would not stop talking about this modest man who seemed intrigued by our story, if not slightly reserved at the same time.

I won't lie, I was a little hesitant. After the trouble with our previous tailor, I was naturally a little suspicious of Ahmed at first, it all just seemed a bit too good to be true. Christelle and I may be twins but we are very different, especially when it comes to trusting new people. She is more outgoing; I'm more on the cautious side. She's perceived as being the more approachable one of the two of us, whilst I take a while to warm up to strangers. Christelle's unwavering optimism for the potentially promising new tailor was infectious though, and I agreed to wait and see his work before I passed judgement. They had arranged to meet again and I was eager to meet Ahmed for myself.

Upon being introduced to him, I soon realised that I need not have had any reservations about Ahmed whatsoever. He was exactly as Christelle had described. Talented, noble, friendly and passionate about quality tailoring. He would always make sure we were completely satisfied with everything he was doing and was totally open to taking any direction we gave him. From day one of us agreeing to work together, he was all about pleasing us, and he really appreciated our honest opinions and input. Ahmed was EXACTLY what we had been searching for.

Although I no longer live in Cameroon, I still speak to Ahmed regularly. My professional relationship with him is excellent, but I would also say that he is a wonderful friend to Christelle and I. It's always fantastic to hear what he's been up to, and in return he likes to find out what is happening on our end. The way Ahmed came into our lives is kind of unbelievable, but I will be forever thankful for the day that he and Christelle found each other in that crowded, sweltering market.

Check back next week, when my lovely sister will fill you in on the next chapter of our Grass-Fields story!

Thank you so much for reading!

Michele x

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