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Meet The Senegalese Designer Making Math Chic.

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Who knew that math and fashion could work together so seamlessly? Apparently Diarra Bousso did, the self-described “Creative Mathematician” and mastermind behind DIARRABLU. The Senegalese serial entrepreneur and multidisciplinary artist left a career of trading on Wall Street to pursue design and it paid off. She has just been awarded a coveted spot as the Designer in Residence at the San Francisco Fashion Incubator for her innovative use of equations and algorithms in her beautiful designs.

The name DIARRABLU is a portmanteau of her own name and the color blue, representing the infinity and abundance of the ocean. The fall/winter collection “Linguère,” named for the Wolof word for a royal female, launched earlier this week. Linguère pays tribute to the tradition of strong Senegalese females of antiquity—specifically the Jolof Empire of the 14th century from which Bousso descends. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about what it is like to merge the nerdy with the glamorous.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nereya Otieno for OkayAfrica: When did the idea to start a fashion line first come to you? Did you foresee it when first leaving trading in Wall Street?

I wanted to have a fashion line since I was very little but it always felt like a far-fetched dream. When I was working on Wall Street, I got even more inspired and excited about the idea. I also was getting more involved in the creative scene through photography and blogging. When I left trading it was with the goal to start a fashion line right away, even though I had no experience in the field back then.

Did the idea of merging mathematics and algorithms with fashion come naturally to you? Or was it more of a stretch?

I always loved mathematics and liked the idea of using geometric shapes and cuts, but the idea of using algorithms didn’t come until I joined the Mathematics Education program at Stanford. We had this amazing professor named Jo Boaler and her work was focused on Creative Mathematics. I was like “wow, what a cool way to describe one’s work.” I started brainstorming in my free time and started toying with the idea of using math in the design process itself and not just the cuts.

The designer pointing to her design credit on a photo of Kendall Jenner in VOGUE USA.
(Photo by Tijan Watt)

After graduation, I started graphing equations, creating shapes and getting really excited. By December 2018, I had generated hundreds of designs algorithmically and decided to work on a collection while in Dakar. We made the first prints and I decided this was going to be the new direction.

So, wait, yeah—how does your process actually work?

I use equations to graph lines, curves, parabolas, hyperbolas, basically anything that can be represented by a math equation and graphed. Then I focus on where those lines and curves meet, which creates kind of random shapes. Then we hand paint those shapes using a color scheme that I’ve chosen.

What do you think it means to use algorithms in instances of self expression and art?

I think it is very empowering. It is a merger of the authentic and the automatic that can be extremely rewarding. Math is limitless, numbers never end and the fact that it is my tool for creation makes me feel like the opportunities are endless. Sometimes, I can stay up all night after writing new algorithms and experimenting with all the iterations that can come out of it. By just changing one number in your equation of flipping the signs, you get a complete new set of patterns. It is so mind blowing!

Your current collection is meant to evoke feelings of the 14th century Jolof Empire, how does it feel to use such contemporary methods in order to create the past?

I have always been fascinated by the past. Perhaps because it is somehow mysterious and hard to grasp. Growing up, I was always excited to dress up on special days as a traditional Wolof princess. My grandma would share her old clothes and resize them for me and I would get traditional braids and jewelry. I am from the Wolof ethnic group in Senegal and my parents raised us with a lot of cultural and historical references. My dad would always tell us stories about our grandparents and mom secretly thinks she is the style heir of the family.

Revisiting Senegal’s past with a collection was very exciting. I wanted to evoke that sense of comfort, freedom and power in traditional wear while adhering to the color palette of the fauna and flora of the Jolof region in Senegal. Clothes are convertible and adjustable just like the traditional boubous and wrap skirts and colors follow an arid climate’s palette of camel undertones and green accents. The algorithmic patterns are abstractions of animal inspired prints and have names like Gyraf and Zybra.

What do you think technologies like this mean for the future of fashion?

I think technologies like this have the potential to make fashion more efficient and circular. In our case, designing our prints algorithmically allows us to generate hundreds of options but only printing the ones that our audience responds to via social media. This has allowed us to reduce fabric inventory wastage by 80% and take a closer step towards sustainability.

What’s next for you and DIARRABLU?

The focus for me is to use this amazing opportunity to scale with the support of Silicon Valley tech executives through the program and expand both our online and store footprint to be able to reach more consumers around the world. We are also working on exciting initiatives to expand our design universe from clothing and accessories to art and interiors. Finally, working towards sustainability is a big goal for us with a focus on more circular solutions to textile design. I hope we keep growing and sharing our story of the intersection of tradition and algorithms with a larger audience.

Designers & Models

Fashion Connect Africa Launched In Accra.

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GREATER ACCRA, GHANA (www.georgebritton.com) - An African fashion-art event dubbed “Fashion Connect Africa” (FCA) has been launched in Accra at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel on Monday as part of events lined up for 2019 Year of Return program.

The FCA is aimed at promoting the African creative spirit, exposure for both Ghanaian and the African Fashion industry players. It also seeks to bring together global fashion players and the indigenous African fashion industry on the same platform to share ideas, solutions and find a way forward for the industry.

Slated for December 30 at the Movenpick Hotel in Accra, the main event promises to debut as one of the most monumental events in Ghana’s fashion industry history, a unique and glamorous convergence that will bring together decision makers, socialites, diplomats, fashion stakeholders, enthusiasts, music lovers, celebrities and members of the diaspora community.

Top model Victoria Michaels who was unveiled as the face of FCA in an address expressed optimism about African fashion taking over the world stage with events like the FCA despite challenges in the industry.

“Though we have seen a lot of collaborations among Africans in different regions, and the Fashion Industry as a whole, yet the industry still remains small scale as members of the African Fashion Industry do not have enough resources that will enable them have the same global visibility as their peers in other developed regions. This is the reason why Fashion Connect Africa was born,” she stated.

“Our vision is to create a global platform that empowers and gives a voice to both the established and upcoming creatives in the fashion Industry. We believe that regardless of wherever you are located on the continent, so far as your crafts meet International standards, it should be made visible, available and accessible to the rest of the world,” she added.

Monday night launching ceremony was attended by a number fashion and showbiz personalities. Among them were Martha Ankomah, KOD, Pappy Kojo and Fred Nuamah. Also in attendance were Head of the European Union. Delegation to Ghana, Ms Diana Acconcia and Mr. Akwasi Agyemang who is the CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority.

Also patrons were thrilled by amazing music and comedy performances by Kwan Pa and Hogan the Comedian.

The FCA is sponsored by the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel, Ostec Ghana, Apolonia City,Vlisco,Woodin,So aesthetics and supported by Melcom Ghana,Tamis Company Ltd,G4S Security, European Union, PWC and Switch Car Rental.

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Adut Akech Wins Model Of The Year At 2019 British Fashion Awards.

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South Sudanese Star model Adut Akech was named 'Model of the Year' at last night's star-studded British Fashion Awards in London, earning her one of the biggest accolades during this year's ceremony.

The 19-year-old, South Sudanese-born model, beat out the likes of Adwoa Aboah, Kaia Gerber and Winnie Harlow to claim the recognition.

During her acceptance speech, Akech, who moved with her family to Australia as a young girl after fleeing South Sudan, touched on the need for better representation of women who look like her in the fashion industry. "It is important for all of us to remember that someone like me winning this award is a rarity," she said.

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"This is for the young women and men who found representation and validation in my work. I want them to never be afraid of dreaming big like I once did."

The model has openly called out racism in the fashion industry in the past. Back in August, she called out Australia's Who Magazine after they published a story about her with a picture of a different model. "I feel as though this would've not have happened to a white model," she said at the time. "Not only do I personally feel insulted and disrespected, but I feel like my entire race has been disrespected," she added.

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According to The Independent, the star model received a standing ovation after delivering her speech. Several artists, models, designers and more attended the ceremony (sometimes referred to as the 'Oscars of British Fashion), which took place at Royal Albert Hall, including Rihanna who won the Urban Luxe award for her label FENTY, which launched this year. The award was presented to her by Janet Jackson.

Several other fashion icons, including Naomi Campbell, Tracee Ellis Ross, British Vogue's Editor-In-ChIef Edward Enninful and plenty others were also in attendance for last night's awards. Check out some more of the action and standout looks below.

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Designers & Models

(PHOTOS): Araba Sey Organizes Clean-up Exercise As Ghana Beach Soccer Sanitation Ambassador.

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Ghanaian international fashion model, motivational speaker and youth mentor; Miss Araba Sey has been unveiled as an Ambassador for the Ghana Beach Soccer Sanitation Campaign.

A brief unveiling ceremony took place at the Oasis Beach Resort, Cape Coast on Saturday, 30th November 2019 after a morning clean up followed by a sanitation and environmental awareness workshop.

The multiple award winning model, Araba Sey expressed her delight at the Ambassadorship, describing it as call to duty which she would approach with all seriousness, passion and dedication.

Since 2011 when the first ever Ghana Beach Soccer League kicked off, officials and players of registered clubs have been actively involved in community sanitation exercises in line with the association’s “Communities Engagement Policy” (CEP).

The program was jointly organised by Envirosan and Oasis Beach management, staff, beach groundsmen, players, officials with children from the local community also participating.

Coordinator for Envirosan, Jennifer Dery confirmed that other non coastal communities would be visited by her outfit in the coming weeks and months as the campaign intensifies.

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Designers & Models

GlennSamm Wins YEA 2019 Fashion Personality of the Year.

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Ghanaian walking artist, GlennSamm won the fashion personality of the year category at the Youth Excellence Awards 2019 held at Silver Star Tower, November 16, 2019.

The fashion icon with a tremendous global appeal, known in real life as Glenn Samuel Semakor won the enviable award in a stiff competition that had other equally deserving fashion super-powers in the category.

Addressing the audience and supporters of the event, the Afro-futuristic extended his heartfelt appreciation all his fans and other collaborators within the fast-rising creative hub, Kvngsofthenewschool who helped him attain this laurel.

Glenn further urged his supporters to be on the lookout for new mind-boggling art installations which will transcend the conscious and positive image of Africa to the world.

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