In Senegal, Khadija Aisha Ba offers a crazy reinterpretation of traditional clothing


Stylist Khadija Aisha Ba in her Le Sandaga boutique, in Dakar, in March 2023.

It is “the girl with the headscarf” as it has been called since childhood. Khadija Aisha Ba never shows up without a turban that seems to wrap over her head to the ceiling. This piece of fabric, often in sparkling colors, has become his visual signature. This 38-year-old stylist, in boubou, sneakers and imposing hoop earrings, is one of the essential faces of fashion in Senegal who has been able to impose, in just a few years, an offbeat vision of clothes or objects. traditions of his country. All you have to do is take a stroll through Sandaga, her small high-end boutique, located in Plateau, a slamming corner of Dakar, to understand the crazy world of this designer and her brand L’Artisane, launched in 2018.

Read also: In Senegal, Marie Madeleine Diouf sees fashion in indigo

The Sandaga, named after the local market in the capital, is a round trip between her past and her country which she seeks to magnify. On the walls, black and white photos of his family stand alongside other frames in which proverbs in Wolof are written. “Better to share a beef than each one leaves with a chicken”, can we read on one of them. Further on, on the shelves, spread out crockery unearthed in Paris and insanely large rings, some of which were made from a candlestick from her mother. “It was broken, I said to myself: ‘Why not make rings out of it? “, she says. And why not.

On hangers, embroidered boubous have names as whimsical as their creator: the “boubou camouflage” because of its military motif, the “boubou zebra” or even the “boubou burger” because it is adorned with a huge crest in the shape of an American sandwich, found on a stall in Dakar. “The trader had 150. It had been lying around for years in a box. I bought everything », says Khadija Aisha Ba. And it is she who wants to sew this patch on the dress once made.


“When I was younger, when I wore my grandmother’s or my grandfather’s boubou, they made fun of me, they told me that I dressed like an old woman. Me, I want to make it cool”, she assures. Today, the “boubou burger” is his “best seller”, sold for 250,000 CFA francs (380 euros). A few days ago, she shipped an order to Sydney. The first models, made in 2018, took two years to sell.

It took international stars like British model Naomi Campbell snapping a photo of themselves in one of these revamped tunics on Instagram, for Senegalese – and Senegalese – to snap them up. “It’s a shame that we wait for African creations to be validated in Europe or the United States to wear them hereshe regrets. African fashion will be boosted when Africans will actually consume African. »

Read also: Senegal in search of its lost weaving

In her shop, she sometimes comes across customers – especially from the diaspora – happy to wear Louis Vuitton or Dior, but who negotiate discounts to afford a few items. It annoys her because her clothes – and even the packaging – are handmade. “I prefer that they don’t buy anything and just come to smell the incense. I want to force them to understand that the handmade has a valueshe gets carried away. Me, I understood it in France. »

After her baccalaureate in 2004, Khadija Aisha Ba, from the middle class, arrives at the University of Orléans for studies in business law and continues after her master’s degree with an MBA in luxury brand management in Paris: she sees then becoming the marketing director of a large company or opening a top-of-the-range concierge service in Dakar.

Fashion as a matter of course

“In France, I receive a cultural slapshe says. I am shocked to discover that the wax is not from the continent but from Holland and I see that big names in European luxury are using symbols of Africa to look chic. Which is not the case with us, we were never told that. And during my first MBA course, we explain that luxury is everything that is handmade. I say to myself: “So, I was born into luxury”. » A reference to his grandmother and his mother who made, with their loom, loincloths. “Even they never explained it to me”she adds.

Back in Senegal after several experiences in communication and marketing, fashion will become obvious. Today, through its diverted traditional models, it “fighting for Africa”make it more ” glamour ” also, and especially so that its history is written, told and woven by children of the continent “There is a slogan that marked me as a child: ‘Who better than Renault can maintain your Renault?’. I say: “Who better than Africans can represent Africa?” »she lets go.

Read also: Senegal: in Dakar, full fire on crafts

As proof, placed on a shelf, these Pinton cans, a real institution in Senegal. Inside, instead of the sardinella pâté, a red and white T-shirt, the colors of the brand. This cotton top is even made in the firm’s factory, located at the port of Dakar. “The Pinton brings together all Senegalese, from the poorest to the richest. It is the taste of our childhood, of our memories, which accompanies us throughout our lives.she points out. We didn’t realize its sentimental value, it’s our Nutella. » Listening to him speak, there would be almost a political message in this T-shirt sold at 35,000 CFA francs (53 euros), another way of saying that ” we are all equal “she points out.


“The Africa World”

Every Saturday, find a week of news and debates, by the editorial staff of “Monde Afrique”


In a few days, she will hang posters of the great classics of Egyptian cinema on a wall. One person remarked to him: “When you enter your shop, you will immediately see these Arabic letters. » Response from Khadija Aisha Ba: ” So what. Egypt is not in Africa? »

This article was written as part of a partnership with 19M, founded by Chanel.


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