African fashion will be celebrated at the V&A museum in London this Saturday, July 2. More and more creators from the continent are making their mark on the international stage. Charlotte Cosset went to meet one of the fashion figures in Senegal. She created the brand Sisters of Africa, which is known for its tie-dye cotton designed and made in Senegal.
In a shop in a backyard in Paris, happy women are crowded around clothes hangers. Many of them are from the diaspora that came from all over France for this private sale of the Sisters of Africa. This brand was launched in 2013 by Hélène Diouf and has won hearts. Paoline Ekambi – former player of the French basketball team, at the head of a start-up, has followed her for several years.
I really fell in love with it and then I went with her to her installation in Dakar and I call her “my little nugget”, who has grown up well. And who today is my little master now because she has really evolved, practically has also spread across the African continent. “
Although she is 1.83 meters tall, Hélène Diouf moves easily around her customers. This young woman was not destined to run a business. She studied geography, worked as a flight attendant, did some modeling and worked as a saleswoman in a large clothing brand. “Anyway, I wanted to be my own boss, I knew that.”
Dynamic and determined, Hélène Diouf draws this energy from her education and her family. “Why Sisters of Africa? Because I come from a family of seven girls and a boy, so for me it was a way to pay tribute to my sisters and especially to my mother who always taught us – rest her soul, she no longer lives – that to be independent, to work, to have something for herself. Even before she got married or something else, she always said to us: “a woman’s first husband is her job”. So today I can say that if it were not for her so I would not have been here. “
“Mom, she worked, she was in business, she was very independent. My father was a sailor so he traveled a lot. It should be said that we in the family also have this taste for travel, to move at least to discover the world.
Sisters of Africa is Hélène, but so is Jeanne … “My name is Jeanne, I’m 40 years old, I’m Hélène’s big sister. Jeanne helps Hélène with communication and accounting. It is without a doubt she who speaks best about her sister “Hélène å lalala! Workers, she does not stop. Stubborn. But we are both stubborn, stubborn, but visionary. She can decide on a model, I will never say in life … Stubborn, she does and this model will be our must or our biggest sale of the season. »
She organizes private sales like these in France, Canada, but also in the Ivory Coast, Gabon, Mali. When she’s not traveling, we find Hélène in Dakar in her shop on Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop.
Dyers, seamstresses, she employs a total of twenty people “Is it important for you to get people to work here in Senegal? Oh yes, that’s important! From nothing, 300,000 FCFA remembers her sister, she gradually made a name for herself in the industry until influential bloggers and even stars carried her creations.
“I’ll show you this dress, which is the Flora dress, the dress that Beyoncé had worn. It’s a source of pride, it says Beyoncé is wearing a Flora dress that costs 130 euros from Sisters of Africa that she saw and that she might like, you say to yourself: “wow! Ok, what I do is that actually good. ” In any case, it encourages us to work well and to move on and get things done. For us it is a source of pride and for me I say that it was above all a source of pride for my team. It was not me, but for the ladies who did the dyeing and my tailor. ”
Customers come to her store all the time. Like Naila who is convinced: “The story of Hélène, her background, local entrepreneurship, doing things that promote Senegal’s talents, that’s why I bought stuff”.
If she made a name for herself in fashion, Hélène Diouf was also known for her leadership. She is part of the famous program for young African leaders. “In Dakar we were received by the President of the Republic, His Excellency Macky Sall. I also had the chance to ask him a question and also the chance to sit next to him and have dinner with him. It was very strong moments. It was important for me to The question was to know: as a Senegalese country and President of the African Union in general, how he could help the creative industry to become a sustainable industry. And really alive. I know there are many things, but it there is an added value that we must do.We have designers, we have craftsmen in Senegal.We have a lot of things, but we lack this added value, this added value in the ecosystem in all areas.
She has made “Made in Africa” one of her priorities “I usually say that I am a 100% made in Senegal product. Today I really want to allow many women who work for us and others who want to join the Sisters of Africa to live decently. To be able to be 100% autonomous. It is also part of our policy, we work on it. ” “I’m still on my way. I’re not yet got where I want to go but I thank God. In addition to making your brand flourish …”.
Hélène Diouf wants to contribute to the development of the textile sector in Senegal. She dreams of being able to use West African cotton processed in the region.