From Cameroon to Chokomode: How Marcelle Gakam Built a Clothing Retail Empire—Shop the Collection

From the moment she got a sewing machine in college, Chokomode founder Marcelle Gakam knew she would start her fashion line. Proudly hailing from Cameroon, Africa, she developed an interest in design at an early age. “Growing up in an atelier, fashion has always been part of my life,” she tells EBONY. After transplanting to New York City to study at the acclaimed Fashion Institute of Technology, “I got the sewing machine, so it was easy to sew the pieces I desired,” she shares. 

Gakam launched her unique clothing line driven by her passion for fashion. Influenced by her French-African roots, she wanted to build a brand from the ground up that spoke to sophisticated women from various backgrounds, ethnicities and walks of life.

The name “Chokomode” honors her grandmother’s name, Choko. Gakam added “mode” to emphasize the unique spirit, culture and heritage of strong professional women across the globe, and the brand’s “dressing the professional woman with elegance” tagline was born.

Chokomode-sleeveless vest

Chokomode offers pieces that create an indelible first impression for the style-functional woman. “Our designs are classy, sophisticated, soft and sexy. They are designed to exude authority and power.” Gakam taps prints and patterns that pay homage to her homeland, offering them in modern-day silhouettes. “Chokomode celebrates the cultural essence of each piece of fabric that is globally imported and recognized in our designs,” she says. “The brand represents an expression of where we’re from and who we are as women, as well as the perception of what we wear.”


Her collections are geared toward women looking to make a statement in and out of the office. “There was a lack of transitional pieces on the market to take women from work through happy hour. I wanted to solve that issue.” 

chokomode lace skirt

With a brick-and-mortar location in Westchester, New York, and an online storefront, Gakam is determined to make her brand of style and apparel a worldwide standard of the fashion industry. From this season’s “Working Girl” trend to timeless design patterns, fashion always remains at the forefront, but Gakam acknowledges that being an entrepreneur is the hardest part of design. 

“Designing comes in handy, but running a business with all its components has been challenging,” she shares. “The lesson is to create a strong structure at an early stage.” 

Learn more about the brand at

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