Fashion in Dakar, a passion in the midst of a revolution


Interior of the Le Sandaga concept store, by designer Khadija Ba Diallo, in the center of Dakar.

A touch of tradition, two of modernity. In the streets of Dakar, new concept stores are opening their doors one after the other, drawing an ever longer circuit for the shopping trip of the upper classes. Dakar is inventing a new lifestyle, resolutely turned towards the future. Undergoing very strong changes in recent years, with the upcoming launch of the exploitation of natural gas deposits off the coast and the creation of the new neighboring town Diamniadio, the Senegalese capital is redrawing the contours of its identity.

Read also: The second-hand clothes market, a chance for Senegal?

Contemporary creation, the arts, and especially fashion, this Dakar passion, have found in this great upheaval spaces to settle down, places to show themselves and share. “Here, every party is an opportunity to go to the tailor. And family reunions are not rare occasions, but very regular appointments”warns Francine Awa Pipien, a young Dakar resident trained in communication, who navigates with ease in the world of influencers, always on the front line to promote a “made in Senegal” just subversive enough to find its place in the youth without transgressing traditions. .

In the mythology of the city, the street tailor is at the heart of family life. “When I was a child, we used to have our clothes cut in the Sandaga market, the oldest in Dakar”, remembers Khadija Ba Diallo, who opened the concept store Le Sandaga, a stone’s throw from this historic site. Nourished by this memory, the designer, trained in Paris, reworked the traditional boubou to make it a piece adapted to urban life.

Also a milliner, Maguette Gueye documents the clothes of different ethnic groups, which she reworks in La Penderie de Maam, bringing to life the shapes, colors and volumes of the bygone era of empires.

Read the picture: “Momo le bottier”, an exceptional Dakar shoemaker

“Our strength lies in the richness of our artistic craftsmanship, which is still very much alive in all the districts of Dakar or the villages of the country. We need to revitalize this heritage and lay our creativity on this solid foundation.”, observes Xalil Cissé, fashion curator and initiator of a market of brands made in West Africa. Concerned that the know-how of yesteryear does not disappear, he too has made their sustainability one of his battles, supported by an ecosystem of young creators and influencers in unison.

Avoid the shortage of manual trades

A whole youth, trained in France or in the United States, became aware of this necessary preservation, to avoid, tomorrow, a shortage of manual trades such as the countries of the North are experiencing. This is the key that will allow productions to move upmarket to satisfy the Afropolitan, proud to show his origins, or even to attack international markets in the future. From the designer Sophie Zinga, at the head of the brand bearing her name, to Hélène Daba Diouf, the designer of Sisters of Afrika, or Sarah Diouf, that of Tongoro, the designers of Dakar work on their own scale to train their tailors, their stitchers, their embroiderers, betting on professionalizing these skills that were once passed on from father to son. , in the courtyards of houses in Senegal.

But will this craftsmanship remain marginal or will it switch to an industrial scale with the creation of a real textile industry in West Africa? While the country will go from 17 million inhabitants today to 32.6 million in 2050, and the economy is still 90% informal, some economists see it as a path to follow, while others consider it risky. to choose this path at a time when China proclaims itself the factory of the world. Unless Senegal knows how to impose sustainable fashion which, with locally sourced and grown products, is capable of seducing consumers beyond its domestic market and dressing beyond its borders.

Read also: Tongoro, the Senegalese label that dresses Beyoncé and Naomi Campbell

An option in which Xalil Cissé wants to believe, for whom “the energy, the creativity are in the South”. “We will be the fashion designers of tomorrow. Truly sustainable fashion. This adjective, we have made it ours for a long time », he repeats willingly, alluding to the frugal past of this Southern society which had integrated the circularity of objects, recovery and recycling before its time. The development prospects that make Senegal one of the five most dynamic economies on the continent, with growth forecasts of 8.1% for 2023, according to the World Bank, will perhaps be the occasion for the expected awakening. Provided that respect for the land where organic cotton grows, that of the work of the craftsman and the durability of the piece created are part of the modus operandi.

This article is part of a dossier produced as part of a partnership with 19M, founded by Chanel.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *