Designer of the Week – Tongoro by Sarah Diouf

Tongoro is a 100% Made in Africa label providing clothing that offer style conscious consumers quality, variety and convenience, at affordable prices. Tongoro was founded in 2016 by Sarah Diouf, and has since then become a ready-to-wear fashion label dedicated to the development of Senegal. By sourcing materials on the continent and working with local tailors, the brands long term goal is to contribute to the development of the retail production in western Africa. Tongoro’s atelier is located in the capital of Senegal, Dakar.

Tongoro Studio
Tongoro Studio

I am not a designer, but I do master image and storytelling

Three years ago, Sarah Diouf came across Nasty Gal’s founder Sophia Amoruso’s book, Girl Boss. What fascinated her most was how Sophia Amoruso managed to build a $100 million online business with zero business training. After completing the book, she thought of possible ventures, she could do with limited funding. The one thing that kept coming back to her was African fashion. This was at a time that African fashion was making headlines, yet it seems the designers were never able to break through like their American, European or Asian counterparts. After further reflection and research, Sarah Diouf decided to launch Tongoro Studio.

Having clothes made is synonymous to any African country. Africa has some of the best talented tailors in the world. The tailors are social agents in the developments of African society aesthetics. They can work miracles within a short period of time, sewing at the discretion of their customers. African tailors play an important role, and impact clothing production and local trends. They also preserve the traditional know how that translates into unique creations. African tailors do not dress the masses alike. 

Tongoro is an African brand that dresses globally, and that will hopefully help the Made in Africa label to become synonymous with quality. Sarah Diouf was raised in Côte d’Ivoire by parents of Senegalese, Congolese and Central African descent. Where she is from, there is no industrial production system. Producing in volume has become a challenge as pattern making is a rare skill in the industry. A majority of the tailors did not attend a formal fashion education, but were taught by learning from their elders. With this in mind Sarah Diouf thought of ways to incorporate this in her business model for Tongoro.

“I am not a designer, but I master the art of imagery and storytelling. I do have a sense of style, and a passion for business.” After several researches and study into luxury, fast-fashion, and some of the most successful eCommerce business models, Sarah Diouf, decided to strike the balance between a ready-to-wear African fashion that can be worn across the globe. Online fashion made in Africa. Affordable prices, available worldwide. The Tongoro design consist of two seasonal collections per year, carrying women’s apparel and accessories.

“I am an African woman, and I wear my cultural heritage with pride, wherever I go, but I also understand that I do not live in a world where the African culture is dominant. To prosper and win, we do not have to disappear or blend in, but to embrace and be embraced by most. Luxury is elitist, and designs that qualify as ethnic, merely make it to the global market without being put into a box. I know what a woman wants, and want to feel like when she dresses up. I can easily translate that in clothing without only having to use what we call African fabrics.

Each season, the Tongoro brand is packaged with imagery that tells a self explanatory story, brought to the public with the power of good branding. Sarah Diouf is not a designers, but she knows how to build a brand.

Sarah Diouf - Creative Director Tongoro
Sarah Diouf - Creative Director of Tongoro

Being celebrated by one of the worlds biggest celebrities

For an emerging designer brand like Tongoro, being celebrated by one of the world’s biggest celebrity is the biggest compliment you can get. It shows the world that African designers and African fashion are here to stay.

Concluding the ‘On the Run II Tour’ Beyonce was spotted wearing the Zanzi Dress and Set of the Tongoro SS18 collection, during the Carters holiday in Italy. The Zanzi set is one of Tongoro’s classic items. The silky two-piece set is the ideal outfit for a relaxed summer vibe. Beyonce also wore the Zanzi dress, which is the embodiment of Afro chic. The Zanzi dress is a breezy piece you won’t get enough of.

Upon arrival in South Africa for the awaited Global Citizen performance, Beyonce again was seen hand-in-hand with Jay Z in Johannesburg, dressed in the Maliki set from Tongoro. We can only conclude that Beyonce has become a big fan of Tongoro, African fashion an emerging African fashion designers.

Tongoro is the luxury Senegalese fashion brand. Tongoro is taking African fashion to the global stage with authentic prints, design and tailoring, which are incomparable to what we find during fashion week in New York, Milan, Paris and London. Be as bold as Beyonce and discover more of Tongoro here.

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