Style

Compare: Did YSL Rip-off This African Designer?

Senegalese fashion designer, Sarah Diouf, pens an open letter after finding that a major fashion label had copied one of her designs.

What happens when someone's culture or artistic property is taken, repurposed, and used for someone else's gain? Well, it's called stealing.


We're seeing it happen more and more in the fashion industry, with major brands incorporating African-inspired styles in their collections without crediting the source, or just downright copying designs.

It can go as far as a major fashion line creating an exact replica of a designer's work and putting their own name on it.  That's what happened to Sarah Diouf, a Senegalese designer and founder of the fashion label Tongoro, who was disappointed to find one of her very own designs tagged with a YSL label during Paris Fashion Week.

Read Diouf's story, in her own words, below.

On Feb 28, YSL debuted their new Fall-Winter 17 collection in Paris, with a crowd bowing down to Anthony Vaccarello’s extravagant über-luxe aesthetic.

Two days later, I was receiving a text from my assistant, inviting me to peruse some of the looks details.

I couldn’t believe my eyes « But this is OUR bag…». Yep, no doubt. This is our bag.

A perfect replica of Tongoro’s MBURU bag : our signature accessory. And there is no chance they could have seen it elsewhere, because « Where else have you seen a 10x 60cm long baguette bag before? » Exactly.

I remember coming to my friends, editors, and any other person I would try to convince it was the next it-statement-accessory, getting laughed and looked at with perplex eyes. Again, « Where else have you seen a 10x 60cm long baguette bag before? »

We all know trends come and go, but when it comes to something that never came from anywhere else but yourself, you feel robbed from inside. And that’s a feeling I have never experienced before.

I think about all the times I scrolled over designer Aurora James posts complaining about how Zara stole her Brother Vellies designs, and thought « Wow… » thinking it only happens to others. Well, today I am the other.

Right after gathering my thoughts, I knew I couldn’t let this go. Because the purpose and the story behind what I do is bigger than an über-luxe aesthetic, and I won’t let anyone rob me from the only weapon that keeps me going and take a stand for a place some only look at for inspiration : my creativity.

Tongoro is a young Made in Africa brand I started last year to develop the textile production industry here at home, in Dakar, Senegal, and the MBURU bag is our signature piece as it represents an essential part of our culture and embodies the very essence of our dignity : the ability to wake, get out and fight for yourself.

Youth employment in Senegal is a real issue ; foreigners come here and see all these young guys on the streets trying to sell them anything, and it’s not that they're are not educated, but there aren’t enough job positions to fill. Yet you see them every morning, smiling, running, fighting for their dollar, selling cashews, toys, fruits or phone credit, because to hustle is to keep going despite the events.

MBURU means [bread] in wolof. The name of the bag is inspired by the #Dakar youth hustling spirit — who wakes up to earn their 'bread' every single day. The MBURU bag is an essentials keeper ; your phone, your cards and maybe some change (...) all you need to go out there and make it happen for yourself — with style.

It is so necessary for me to claim and reclaim every piece of culture and story I am fighting for the world to see.

My company is small, but my vision is large, and I am working way too hard to let this go.

Am I big enough to fight against a fashion institution like YSL? I may be not, but my voice is, and I have to use what I have to make a statement that won’t stay un-noticed.

Cultural appropriation at its best? For those who don’t understand, it’s like working on a project and getting an F and seeing somebody copy you and getting an A plus credit for your work.

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Photo credits: Deeds Art

Tems Is Just Doing Her Thang In New Music Video 'Crazy Tings'

The Nigerian songstress is hell bent on taking over your summer playlist and it's getting harder to resist.

It has been a fantastic year for Tems. The Nigerian singer, producer, and songwriter achieved a platinum record for eternal banger Essence, her collaboration with fellow Nigerian superstar Wizkid, an MTV EMA nomination for Best African Artist, a billion worldwide video views, and over 350 million audio streams. Not to mention featuring on Canadian rapper Drake's blowout album Certified Lover Boy, the singer has also sold out every show she's booked.

The release of Tems's sophomore EP If Orange Was a Place solidified her place amongst the greats and it was received with gusto by fans and international audiences. A month after the release the Afrobeats singer has graced fans with a sultry music video to go along with equally as tantalizing lead single Crazy Tings. Conceptualized by the multitalented Tems, and directed by UAX, the music video follows a sensual Tems as she sings about needing space from a lying partner.

International audiences continue to rave over the songstress, with Tems delivering an impressive US TV debut on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! this month. Essence continues to top international charts. While becoming the official song of the summer, the track peaked on the Billboard 100 Top 10, becoming the most Shazamed song in the United States and was remixed by Canadian musical heavyweight Justin Bieber, becoming the first song written by Nigerian artists to hit No.1 on Urban Radio.

Tems has been producing consistent hits since her debut in September 2020, and a year later, the singer's immense talent is securing her reputation as a world-class superstar.

Check out Tem's music video for single 'Crazy Tings' below

Tems - Crazy Tings (Official Video) www.youtube.com

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