“Chanel came to remind us that we have talent” in Senegal

Bringing back parts of the historic Dakar or yesterday’s Senegal… Khadija Ba Diallo brings this dream to each of her creations, convinced that working on the past helps shape the future and establishes a little more African pride. The Senegalese designer doesn’t relish the wet eye of someone who rediscovers the Air Afrique logo, the continent’s great aviation epic, or Pinton boxes filled with traditional sardine paste in his objects. the end of the month. As a stylist at the helm of her own brand, with a master’s degree in business law and an MBA in luxury brand management, L’Artisane feels like a journeyman. “Modern pieces love to cut the old fashioned way” and its centerpiece remains a boubous modernization of its grandfather.

At the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (IFAN), outside the “19M Dakar” exhibition, some of his creations exemplify how problematic transmission is in Dakar, as in Paris. In the two capitals, this problem arises in very different contexts. Based on this observation, Bruno Pavlovsky believes that there is “There is a lot to share, to create together, so that everyone is enriched by the exchange and circulation of ideas.” It is in these few words that the president of Chanel’s fashion activity sums up the spirit of the transfer of 19M, the craft structure placed under his presidency.

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It opened on the 19th a year agoe The arrondissement of Paris, 19M is where the brand established eleven crafts and their 600 craftsmen, embroiderers, shoemakers, pencil makers… This 25,000 m2, designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti, wants to make craftsmanship visible, without which exceptional haute couture clothing would never see the light of day. Already visited by more than 20,000 visitors from January 19 to March 31, 19M Paris moved to Dakar, enriched by the joint works of artists and craftsmen from both continents. The exhibition, which is free and open to all, will then return to France enriched by this adventure.

At the same time, four one-week master classes in February and March will bring together some twenty students, local artisans, 19M art houses and a school in Senegal’s iconic know-how (boots, shoemaking, sewing, weaving and embroidery). from each of the two countries (where applicable).

In the 50% urban society where you no longer learn your father’s craft, ancestral skills gradually decline.

Today, there is only one apprenticeship training center (CFA) in Dakar, and 50% of the ancestral skills are gradually declining in the urban community, where you no longer learn your father’s trade by trying to imitate him in the backyard. “For example, weaving in the villages has been passed down from father to son. If we don’t organize the training very soon, what will happen tomorrow? », asks Aïssa Dione, business manager for upholstery fabrics, who has worked for the biggest labels in Paris and elsewhere but has struggled to recruit at her factory in Dakar.

The “small hands” of luxury

To continue this highlight (which will be a day of reflection with scholars), Chanel will also establish a skills sponsorship, financial sponsorship and offer scholarships for 150 young people in Dakar in connection with the Fund for the Financing of Professional and Technical Training (3FPT). Nation. One way to extend the “craftsmanship” parade on December 6, 2022 is to show that it is not a simple bracket of lights and glitter, but “Another thread has been woven between France and Senegal”, As President Macky Sall concluded when he inaugurated the 19M Dakar.

Participatory embroidery workshop at the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (IFAN) as part of the 19M Dakar exhibition.

Continuing the tradition of luxury “small hands” in Paris has been a challenge for several decades. At Chanel, Bruno Pavlovsky began buying art houses in 1985 to protect his know-how. “The future of luxury was there”. And yet… “Twenty years ago, with the advent of technology, our manufacturers began to face difficulties in hiring. Chanel sums up the president of SAS. Creating a center of attraction with Hermès in Pantin helped restore the sector’s visibility before manual trade became a possible second career and we started working directly with schools. »

If the situation improves a little, the dream of Britain’s fate remains in everyone’s mind. Nineteenth in this rich countrye a century of artistic craftsmanship, half a century of displacement was enough to make the finest know-how disappear, even the jacquard technique invented across the Channel is forgotten there…

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In order not to slide down this slope, 17 big names of French luxury have already created their own school, and the Colbert Committee, which unites 93 luxury houses, has been multiplying initiatives for several years, for example last December. “At station F, an event was organized that combined the various skills of 23 luxury houses and the nearby vocational high school. [un campus de start-up créé à Paris par Xavier Niel, actionnaire du Monde] »Benedikte Epinay, general representative of the committee, explains that he is happy to welcome 4,500 high school students there and to reconcile modernity and tradition here again.

A skilled day

In Dakar, like a good portion of the new generation of designers and owners of Senegalese brands, Fatima Zahra Ba is sorely lacking in trained tailors and tailors and has to juggle to fulfill her orders. “When so many young people are unemployed”, laments this young entrepreneur at the head of the So’Fatoo brand. Like him, many principals observe a systematic shift to training in the humanities as traditional occupations disappear and import of consumer goods becomes necessary.


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Fatima Zahra Ba, who studied in the United States, developed a product that meets the needs and wants of the market. The long, demure gown, conceived for the first time for her, the quality of the fabric and drape she worked on, playing on the beauty of a very classic woven loincloth, was well received in this 80% Muslim country and beyond. .

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However, his day-to-day life as a producer is as resourceful as many other entrepreneurs dealing with the local reality, driven by passionate faith and love of country. Sophie Zinga, designer of the eponymous brand, which has paraded in New York, Paris and elsewhere, also chose this path paved with pitfalls and recalls the struggle to muster the skills necessary to make her clothes after returning to Dakar. he was overwhelmed with labor.

“It is becoming important to educate young people in a more organized way in all areas of the craft industry”, Aïssa Dione pleads

Therefore, it is difficult to proceed without more institutionalized training when the economy urgently needs to be developed in these countries, where the country’s population will increase from 28 million today to 32.6 million in 2050 and 90% remain informal. “It is becoming urgent to educate young people in a more organized way in all areas of the handicraft industry”, Aïssa Dione pleads at the start of the very successful project of the Institute of Crafts in Damnadio, the new city that has relieved Dakar.

Aïssa Dione, company manager for furniture weaving, in Dakar.

For Eyumane Assendule Bacule, managing director of Bä Tisseurs, a community organization that supports the territorial dynamics of social transformation, the imminent exploitation and development prospects of hydrocarbon deposits on the country’s coast in 2024 are urgent. Senegal is becoming one of the continent’s five most dynamic economies, with growth forecast at 3.7% this year. “We have spent the last 60 years supplying our raw materials to others. he regrets it. So there is no time to lose: we must enter the creative economy by reinventing our traditions. »

A thriving ecosystem

There are many artisans like him who know that local crafts should allow for a real industry. This is also the intuition of a very influential stylist Bibi Seck, to whom we owe the interior design of the Scenic, Twingo II or Trafic cars, repeats this. “Senegal’s industrialization will go through craftsmanship”. For those who don’t dare to imagine that some of their modernity might come from revisited traditions, the arrival of a brand with two Cs will generally focus attention on an ecosystem that is already in full swing.

“By holding a parade here, organizing master classes there, Chanel has come to remind us that we have a somewhat forgotten talent. So now it’s up to us to value it.”recalls working filmmaker and stylist Sally Raby Kane “Changing Dreams”. Therefore, the ground seems ripe in this capital, where multiple initiatives meet each other and a simmering African pride emerges.

This article was written in partnership with the Gallery of 19M Dakar.

“19M Dakar” program

The schedule is subject to change, more information is available on the @lagaleriedu19mdakar Instagram account

– January 28: clay and eucalyptus painting workshop, by Marie-Madeleine Diouf.


– February 4: Patterned jewelry workshop, by Maud Villaret.

– From February 6 to 19: Emma Bruschi’s residence.

– February 6 to 10: bootmaker, with Massaro.

– February 8, 11, 15 and 18: participatory workshops, by Emma Bruschi.

– February 11: grain and gudiane dyeing workshop, by Marie-Madeleine Diouf.

– February 20-24: sewing master class with Paloma.

– February 25: Participatory workshop led by CSAO seamstresses.


– March 4: Patterned jewelry workshop, by Maud Villaret.

– from 1er March 12: Kenya Almaraz Murillo residence.

– March 6 to 10: knitting master class with Lesage.

– March 18: natural indigo dyeing workshop by Marie-Madeleine Diouf.

– From March 20 to 24: Master-class on embroidery with Montex.

– March 25: Participatory workshop led by CSAO seamstresses.

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