Sarah Diouf talks Tongoro Studio and Malick Sidibe
Eight years ago she was spurred by a desire to see a reflection of herself within the fashion industry, resulting in the birth of Ghubar Magazine. The hunger to celebrate the essence of African fashion and remain true to her identity is what pushed Sarah Diouf to become the fashion muse she is today.
As an entrepreneur what do you stand for?
Strength — Physically and mentally, this is important. There are days I feel too weak to achieve anything. If I don’t keep pushing myself, no one else will. I also believe in relevance, in my work — and or the lack of it will also speak for itself. It’s super important for me to always have something tangible to show and not just rely on past achievements. I believe being honest with oneself is important regarding my abilities and limits, but also as I am working with a group of people and being able to recognise when I am wrong; we’re all humans, so it happens.
What does Ifren Media Group do?
We are a creative and publishing media company producing content for global audiences. Hence the birth of Ghubar Magazine and Noir magazine and currently Tongorostudio, an online clothing line with the aim to create fashion that is accessible and affordable for everyone.
What are the misconceptions people have about your brand?
Some people have a certain expectation when they see the visuals of the brand, and are always surprised when they find out about the price point.
There is no win for a brand to sell a beautiful image but no clothes. I want people to wear them and feel awesome.
What book are you currently reading?
ZAG, a book on brand strategy by Marty Neumeier
Where does your approach to African fashion come from?
I grew up on the continent, I believe some things unconsciously fed and left a print in my mind, and now have an impact on how I see and do everything. My thing has always been image; I have always wanted to work in advertising and create imagery you don’t need words for, then fashion kind of happened to me, revealing itself as a beautiful accessory to create powerful images, but never a substitute. African fashion the way I see it, is a result of a clash between my cultural heritage and also every part of the world I step into.
You are steadily becoming a fashion icon, people love the way you dress. What does fashion mean to you?
Fashion is a bridge to something else. It’s a way of expression. An accessory to create. And I love meeting and connecting with people through it. It is not something to be taken too seriously because life is bigger than that, unless from a business point of view, because many people live from it, feed their families, and deserve respect and recognition for their work.
Who is your favourite designer?
Phoebe Philo (Celine) she is one of the few phenomenal designers that are able to capture a woman’s essence.
Malick Sidibe is … ?
One of the greatest.
Describe the connection between your work and his?
Amongst others great photographers of his generation, Malick Sidibé is one of my number one inspiration; he was one of the very first to depict a positive post-independence image of (Western) Africa through his photographs, and somehow succeeded in defining a unique African aesthetic that is still present and relevant today.
I visited his studio in Bamako some years ago, where I got a chance to meet with him and his son, and shoot a portrait of my friend. I think I just didn’t realise how big of a deal that was at that time. But it’s a moment I will never forget.
The best advice you have ever been given is…?
Never take advice from someone who’s not in the position you’d like to be, look for people who have achieved concrete things, people who live, sleep, and eat from the results of their achievements. We live in an era where social media turns everything and everyone’s life into a fantasy and can mislead people expectations, but at the end of the day, we all want to be successful, not just the look of it.
What are your 3 favourite décor items in your home?
My super long bench-like white desk, a Bogolan blanket from Senegal, and a huge golden metal basket from Zara Home.
If you were an item of furniture, what would you be and why?
A natural wood desk; because that’s all I need to work (plus I love wood).
Who should we follow on Instagram?