There is a Beyoncé before and after for Sarah Diouf. Before 2020, Tongoro, which the now-36-year-old woman founded four years earlier, was growing with the measured pace of a new Senegalese label. Then, everything picked up speed with the release of Beyoncé’s musical feature film Black Is King at the end of July 2020. In the midst of pink flamingos, the American celebrity may be seen here sporting a pair of black and white pants that are labeled Tongoro.
The film, which was broadcast on Disney+ and had more than 11 million viewers in only two days, then strengthened the still-confidential brand and increased sales.
Dakar’s passion for fashion in the midst of the revolution
In the hallway of an apartment in Scat Urbam, a contemporary building in Dakar, where the designer has set up her office and her clothing workshop, the image of the queen of pop music can be seen alongside those of the American pianist and singer Alicia Keys or the British supermodel Naomi Campbell.
This is because Sarah Diouf employs clothing, fabrics, cuts, and volumes to convey the tale of her region, which is why these VIP brand ambassadors joined the company so soon. She claims that his clothes designs depict “Africa on the move” and that this is what draws her most attentive audience.
The young woman, who was living in Paris at the time, had the intuition that an African Renaissance was still in progress, but it was her contact with “Dakar the creative” that helped him improve his proposal.
full fire on craft in Dakar
The person who considers themselves to be “a child of Africa” notes, at the start of the 2010 decade, that “the craze for African fabrics allows a reappropriation of traditional cultures and encourages the emergence of contemporary designers Africans.” She was born in Paris to a Senegalese-Central African mother and a Senegalese-Congolese father and was later raised in Ivory Coast.
Though he is inspired by the fervor surrounding Africa and its exports and the enthusiasm for what the continent produces, it will take him a while to find his true calling.
By “Embodying African Pride”
She started her career as a communication specialist in 2009 with the launch of a webzine called GhubarA, which she named as a “space for the promotion of African and Arab artists in the world of art, culture, and fashion.” She holds a master’s degree in marketing and communication management from the Sorbonne in Paris. She continued in 2015 with Black, a lifestyle publication that discusses fashion and beauty in Africa. She enters the fashion industry through this back door.
One of the best shoemakers in Dakar is “Momo le Bottier”
She is gradually coming around to the notion of developing a Made in Africa brand, which she sees as a platform for the continent’s expertise.
According to Sarah Diouf, “I have long wished to embody African pride in priceless creations.”
Consequently, she is the writer and director of a narrative that promotes sub-Saharan Africa through her collections. Fashion seemed to her to be the right vehicle for this narrative, imposing itself on her like fabric.
She relocated to Dakar in 2016, when she fell in love with the city’s ubiquitous street tailors who worked nonstop to create the unique clothing that everyone ordered.
This undeveloped talent, which Sarah Diouf finds “fascinating,” is what she feeds off of and uses for her label. She immediately surrounded herself with four tailors, who in her workshop produced between one and 200 outfits every month.
She pulls out essential pieces from her closet, including dresses with long sleeves and broad shoulders and jumpsuits with wide legs. Noble pieces that respected the freedom to move and improved movement.
Sarah Diouf bases her visual identity on monochromatic prints of flowers or other patterns taken from traditional African imagery. Malick Sidibé (1936–2016) and Seydou Keta (1923–2001), two Malian portrait painters known as the “Father of African Photography,” served as inspiration for this design.
Tongoro, which translates to “star” in Sango, the language of the Central African Republic, adopted this design immediately. Sarah Diouf recently increased the chromatic spectrum of her works and the variety of items she produces at her customers’ request.
She also adds head jewelry and large earrings with highly styled contours to the colors that come to change her basic textiles. These accessories can highlight a hairdo and improve the posture of the head. According to the designer, who seeks to highlight in her clothing “the presence of a subtle Senegalese poetry of the volumes,” “the cultural mix in which I grew up infuses my brand.”
The challenge of producing locally
She wants to create attractive, well-finished clothing with Tongoro that can be worn anywhere, including America, Europe, and the Middle East. Additionally, the company that communicates in English currently generates 60% of its revenue in the United States, ahead of the United Kingdom and France, for the sake of efficiency.
Its primary markets on the continent are South Africa, where the company will soon expand, and Nigeria, far ahead of Senegal, which is developing slowly.
“The Africa World”
All Tongoro works are sold only on the company’s website thanks to Sarah Diouf’s use of her marketing expertise to develop the company’s digital business model.
Why limit yourself to physical stores, she wonders, when you can reach a larger audience of consumers online and do so across all continents? Since 2022, Tongoro has also been sold on the upscale products marketplace Net-à-porter, a distribution channel that has introduced it to a new Middle Eastern customer.
Due to the Covid-19 epidemic and the brand’s inability to produce two collections of 1,000 pieces each annually, the collaboration, which was supposed to begin in 2020, was delayed for two years.
In Senegal, increasing output continues to be difficult. Similar to other fashion designers in the nation, Sarah Diouf had to mentor her tailors in patronage. She intends to establish a bigger clothes unit in Senegal in order to obtain autonomy and boost production to 500 pieces per month. She is also establishing a collaboration with a Senegalese textile business that already employs 100 tailors.
“There is no fashion industry here due to a lack of formalization of the sector, but rather an ecosystem to which we must adapt,” she laments, regretful for this unrealized potential. Sarah Diouf, however, is determined to persevere and believes that other artists will be motivated by her story.
Content courtesy of Globe Echo & NFH