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(Photo Courtesy of DIARRABLU)

Model Windella Fall wearing a piece from the new DIARRABLU collection.

Meet the Senegalese Designer Making Math Chic

Diarra Bousso uses algorithms to create designs for her line DIARRABLU.

Who knew that math and fashion could work together so seamlessly? Apparently Diarra Bousso did, the self-described "Creative Mathematician" and mastermind behind DIARRABLU. The Senegalese serial entrepreneur and multidisciplinary artist left a career of trading on Wall Street to pursue design and it paid off. She has just been awarded a coveted spot as the Designer in Residence at the San Francisco Fashion Incubator for her innovative use of equations and algorithms in her beautiful designs.


The name DIARRABLU is a portmanteau of her own name and the color blue, representing the infinity and abundance of the ocean. The fall/winter collection "Linguère," named for the Wolof word for a royal female, launched earlier this week. Linguère pays tribute to the tradition of strong Senegalese females of antiquity—specifically the Jolof Empire of the 14th century from which Bousso descends. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about what it is like to merge the nerdy with the glamorous.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nereya Otieno for OkayAfrica: When did the idea to start a fashion line first come to you? Did you foresee it when first leaving trading in Wall Street?

I wanted to have a fashion line since I was very little but it always felt like a far-fetched dream. When I was working on Wall Street, I got even more inspired and excited about the idea. I also was getting more involved in the creative scene through photography and blogging. When I left trading it was with the goal to start a fashion line right away, even though I had no experience in the field back then.

The designer pointing to her design credit on a photo of Kendall Jenner in VOGUE USA.(Photo by Tijan Watt)

Did the idea of merging mathematics and algorithms with fashion come naturally to you? Or was it more of a stretch?

I always loved mathematics and liked the idea of using geometric shapes and cuts, but the idea of using algorithms didn't come until I joined the Mathematics Education program at Stanford. We had this amazing professor named Jo Boaler and her work was focused on Creative Mathematics. I was like "wow, what a cool way to describe one's work." I started brainstorming in my free time and started toying with the idea of using math in the design process itself and not just the cuts.

After graduation, I started graphing equations, creating shapes and getting really excited. By December 2018, I had generated hundreds of designs algorithmically and decided to work on a collection while in Dakar. We made the first prints and I decided this was going to be the new direction.

So, wait, yeah—how does your process actually work?

I use equations to graph lines, curves, parabolas, hyperbolas, basically anything that can be represented by a math equation and graphed. Then I focus on where those lines and curves meet, which creates kind of random shapes. Then we hand paint those shapes using a color scheme that I've chosen.

What do you think it means to use algorithms in instances of self expression and art?

I think it is very empowering. It is a merger of the authentic and the automatic that can be extremely rewarding. Math is limitless, numbers never end and the fact that it is my tool for creation makes me feel like the opportunities are endless. Sometimes, I can stay up all night after writing new algorithms and experimenting with all the iterations that can come out of it. By just changing one number in your equation of flipping the signs, you get a complete new set of patterns. It is so mind blowing!

Your current collection is meant to evoke feelings of the 14th century Jolof Empire, how does it feel to use such contemporary methods in order to create the past?

I have always been fascinated by the past. Perhaps because it is somehow mysterious and hard to grasp. Growing up, I was always excited to dress up on special days as a traditional Wolof princess. My grandma would share her old clothes and resize them for me and I would get traditional braids and jewelry. I am from the Wolof ethnic group in Senegal and my parents raised us with a lot of cultural and historical references. My dad would always tell us stories about our grandparents and mom secretly thinks she is the style heir of the family.

Revisiting Senegal's past with a collection was very exciting. I wanted to evoke that sense of comfort, freedom and power in traditional wear while adhering to the color palette of the fauna and flora of the Jolof region in Senegal. Clothes are convertible and adjustable just like the traditional boubous and wrap skirts and colors follow an arid climate's palette of camel undertones and green accents. The algorithmic patterns are abstractions of animal inspired prints and have names like Gyraf and Zybra.

What do you think technologies like this mean for the future of fashion?

I think technologies like this have the potential to make fashion more efficient and circular. In our case, designing our prints algorithmically allows us to generate hundreds of options but only printing the ones that our audience responds to via social media. This has allowed us to reduce fabric inventory wastage by 80% and take a closer step towards sustainability.

What's next for you and DIARRABLU?

The focus for me is to use this amazing opportunity to scale with the support of Silicon Valley tech executives through the program and expand both our online and store footprint to be able to reach more consumers around the world. We are also working on exciting initiatives to expand our design universe from clothing and accessories to art and interiors. Finally, working towards sustainability is a big goal for us with a focus on more circular solutions to textile design. I hope we keep growing and sharing our story of the intersection of tradition and algorithms with a larger audience.

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Image courtesy of NASO.

Discover the Minimalist Designs of Nigerian-Owned Fashion Label NASO

They're set to launch their latest collection at Banana Republic this month.

NASO is a new fashion label founded by first-generation Nigerian-American Uyi Omorogbe, who has made it a point to place social impact and minimalist design at the center of the brand.

Influenced by African aesthetics and manufactured completely on the continent, the brand is invested in building schools in rural ares of Nigeria, and uses a percentage of its earnings in order to do so, says Omorogbe. The brand built its first school in the Nigerian village of Urhokuosa, where Omorogbe's father is from in 2019.

Now, NASO is expanding in a major way with a new partnership with fashion retailer Banana Republic. The line will launch at their flagship store in Manhattan later this month, and it's the first brand to have a pop-up at the store. The hope is that the collaboration will help further NASO's ethically-minded mission. "Our mission is simple: to produce great products, create economic opportunity, and empower the youth of Africa to change their communities and in the process, the world," says Omorogbe. "When our customers wear our clothing, we want them to have a feeling of empowerment, a feeling that makes them think, "Well done," or as we say in Nigeria, NASO."

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Adut Akech poses in winners room after winning the Model of the Year Award during The Fashion Awards 2019 held at Royal Albert Hall on December 02, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Tim Whitby/BFC/Getty Images)

South Sudanese Model Adut Akech Wins Model of the Year at 2019 British Fashion Awards

The 19-year-old model spoke about the need for increased representation in the fashion world during her acceptance speech.

Star model Adut Akech was named 'Model of the Year' at last night's star-studded British Fashion Awards in London, earning her one of the biggest accolades during this year's ceremony.

The 19-year-old, South Sudanese-born model, beat out the likes of Adwoa Aboah, Kaia Gerber and Winnie Harlow to claim the recognition.

During her acceptance speech, Akech, who moved with her family to Australia as a young girl after fleeing South Sudan, touched on the need for better representation of women who look like her in the fashion industry. "It is important for all of us to remember that someone like me winning this award is a rarity," she said.

"This is for the young women and men who found representation and validation in my work. I want them to never be afraid of dreaming big like I once did."

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Davido's Fiancé, Chioma Rowland, Tests Positive For Coronavirus

The Nigerian musician made the announcement via a heartfelt Instagram post on Friday.

Chioma Rowland, the fiancé of star Nigerian musician Davido, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The artist shared the news via Instagram on Friday, writing that he and 31 people on his team decided to get tested after returning back to Lagos from abroad. While he and the rest of his team received negative results, Rowland's test came back positive.

"Unfortunately, my fiancé's results came back positive while all 31 others tested have come back negative including our baby," wrote Davido. He added that they both showed no systems, but would be self-isolating as a safety measure.

"We are however doing perfectly fine and she is even still yet to show any symptoms whatsoever. She is now being quarantined and I have also gone into full self isolation for the minimum 14 days," he added. "I want to use this opportunity to thank you all for your endless love and prayers in advance and to urge everyone to please stay at home as we control the spread of this virus! Together we can beat this!"

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Juls Drops New Music Video for 'Soweto Blues' Featuring Busiswa and Jaz Karis

The Ghanaian-British producer heads to South Africa for the music video for the amapiano-inspired track.

Heavyweight Ghanaian-British producer Juls shares his first offering of 2020, and it does not disappoint.

The producer enlists South African music star Busiswa and London's Jaz Karis for the jazz-inflected "Soweto Blues," which also boasts elements of South Africa's dominant electronic sound, Amapiano. The slow-burner features airy vocals from Karis who features prominently on the 3-minute track, while Busiswa delivers a standout bridge in her signature high-energy tone.

"The song dubbed "Soweto Blues" is a song depicting the love, sadness and fun times that Soweto tends to offer its people," read the song's YouTube description. The video premiered earlier today on The Fader. "The energy is amazing, the people are lovely and I've found a second home — especially the vibrancy of Soweto," the producer told The Fader about his trip to Soweto for the making of the video "Jaz Karis is singing a love song, which is symbolic of my new love of Soweto and I'm honoured to have worked with Busiswa whom I have been a fan of for a long time."

Fittingly, the music video sees Juls traveling through the township, taking in its sights and energy. The video, directed by Nigel Stöckl, features striking shots of the popular area and its skilled pantsula dancers.

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