Nawal Merabet and Hourria Sammari
Nawal Merabet and Hourria Sammari
Image: Malick Welli

There’s little known about the textile brand that’s been popping up at design shows of late, apart from the fact that their carefully crafted décor products are turning heads. But why? And what’s behind the finished pieces?

Started by friends Nawal Merabet and Hourria Sammari, Tisserand Dakar (translated to: the weavers of Dakar) focuses on hand weaving traditional West African fabrics, using techniques that have been preserved for generations. Moreover, the Dakar based brand is about sustaining the livelihoods of the locals who dedicate their time to these threatened crafts, directly impacting their lives and continuing the preservation of these crafts for the future.

With backgrounds in international development, finance and management, as well as a wealth of travel under their belts, Nawal and Hourria, who reunited living in Dakar, felt they had something to offer to the local craftsmen of Dakar, as well as to the design-loving international market, where authentic, woven crafts are an increasing rarity.

Living in Dakar, Senegal they were exposed to the beauty of many of West Africa’s traditional textiles. “We fell in love with the colorful variety of fabric textures and prints, but were drawn most of all to the richness of the traditionally handwoven pagne tissé, a fabric woven by the Manjac tribes of Southern Senegal and Northern Guinea,” they say of the textile that makes up the largest part of their collection. Setting out to create a range of décor and accessories that celebrates West African craft, they began working with a community of craftspeople in Dakar.

With Hourria based in Dakar and Nawal now in Johannesburg, they currently support a core team of seven artisans, specialising in different crafts (weaving, leatherwork, woodwork, beading and tailoring), who produce the cushions, table linen, throws, bags and small furniture pieces that make up the Tisserand Dakar range.

What makes their products unique is the attention to detail and quality of raw materials used. Exceptional quality takes time, and that, they dedicate to each and every item. “It takes roughly two days to set up the loom and connect hundreds of threads to make up the designs, only on the third day can the weaver start producing his delicate fabric. Producing pagne tissé is labour intensive. Requiring two people to do the actual weaving, the fabric is woven at a rate of three to five metres a day for a very good weaver,” they explain.

The faces behind the beautiful and intricately designed products:

The chain of labour involved in each piece is also something to note. Their Tisserand tote bags, for example, are sewn by their chief tailor Thierno, and then adorned with pagne tissé, handwoven by one of their master weavers, before being given leather handles crafted by their leather worker Sidiqqi. It’s an involved process and one that is marked in the fine work being produced by the team. 

Their items, although rooted in Africa, have an international appeal that’s irresistible to design lovers. In supporting the production of pieces that are made at the hands of artisans, using the knowledge of their forefathers and taking the time and care that they do, Tisserand Dakar is creating future heirlooms and works of art in their own right.

Visit their Facebook page for more info:

Gallery images of some of Tisserand's products:

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