Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work?

I’m Diarra Bousso, the founder of Dakar Boutique Group, a luxury holding company that houses my three brands; Diarra Bousso, Diarrablu, and Mint. I was born and raised in Senegal but spent most of my teenage years in Norway and subsequently in the United States where I did my higher education. I actually started my career trading bonds on Wall Street before pursuing my passion for fashion and development.

What is your creative process?

I find inspiration from revisiting works of the great masters of modern art. I’m especially inspired by the precursors of the cubism movement, Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Aside from visual arts, I also find a lot of inspiration from my travels and my academic background. The strong geometric focus in DIARRABLU line is influenced by my mathematics background.

What’s your fashion philosophy – ie. ethical or/and sustainable fashion?

Ethical fashion is core to our brands.  All garments and accessories produced through our three brands leave minimal environmental footprints, we provide good working conditions and fair wage for our artisans. Our luxury brand Diarra Bousso for example, is handcrafted by our artisans using recycled exotic leather from the Karoo region in South Africa. Our Mint and Diarrablu brands are also ethically produced in our workshop in Dakar, Senegal.

What is your advice to aspiring designers?

Persistence is key. My advice to anyone who wants to be successful would be, knock on as many doors as possible and leave a positive impression. You need to know the why for what you are doing, understand your mission and be able to clearly articulate this to the different people you’ll encounter. I think having a great team is also very important. I wouldn’t have survived without my amazing team in Dakar, New York, Paris and Beijing.

In your opinion what are some of the challenges facing the fashion industry in Africa?

The main challenges I would say are but not limited to (i) the lack of understanding of the various roles within the industry – many people in the continent call themselves designers without really understanding what being a designer entails.  (ii) The lack of organization of the industry itself – the fashion industry is very complex with distinct branches such as design, manufacturing, PR, marketing and sales which all require thorough training and investment.Though the continent has strong talents within the different parts of the industry, the lack of organization hinders us. iii) The lack of support from our governments for the creative sector and creative entrepreneurs is stymying the industry’s development.

How do you give back to the community?

I launched the GEM (Global Education Movement) foundation before leaving Wall Street to empower women and children through educational opportunities. In terms of projects, we have succesfully provided training opportunities to women tailors in Senegal to improve the quality and efficiency of their productions. We are currently working on both formal and vocational training opportunities for young mothers and street children.

What’s your price range?

Diarra Bousso, our premium leather accessories start at US$1000. DIARRABLU, our contemporary womenswear inspired by geometry range between US$130 and US$380. Our affordable brand MINT, which targets a younger demographic and is priced  from US$40 to US$120.

See more of Diarra’s work at http://www.diarrabousso.com