Who is the Tongoro woman? What does she like to do? What is her style and personality? The Tongoro woman is a woman of the now. She's fashionable, fun, flirty, confident, and aware of her times. She likes to mix affordable and high end and is never afraid to make a statement. She's very open to the world and likes to travel. The world is her playground.
How do your Senegalese heritage and the brand's location, influence the brand's identity and seasonal designs? I am always inspired by my surroundings; it could be an area and the landscape, it could be music, or even art - being in Dakar definitely has an impact on my designs. It can never be boring.
How does Tongoro stay ahead in a fast-paced fashion industry? The brand is only 1-year-old and this first year has been a great teacher. Even if I'd like to come up with new items every week, I have to take in consideration that I am working with people and this is not a race. We are building this together, giving life to a vision, but the pace we're doing it at doesn't have to mirror what the whole world is doing.
We stay ahead by doing things differently and by doing it the right way. We are taking it one step at a time, and growing organically with a primary focus on the quality over quantity.
Within the context of the global fashion industry, "African Fashion" is often characterised by African prints & fabrics. How do you differentiate yourself in an international market and transcend the "African Fashion" stereotype? I think the aesthetic of the brand and the design speak for itself; I play with all kinds of materials, and prints, and if it wasn't for the name and editorial storyline, it could be a brand from anywhere else. I design for anybody that loves to play with fashion, but I tell a unique story through the clothing, that's how I differentiate.
What are your thoughts on the current African fashion industry? The evolution is truly amazing to watch. I love what I see in Nigeria so to speak; the consortium of designers, the birth of a tangible industry, it's exciting. We need more.
What is on your radar for summer 2017/8? One-shoulder styles and a lot of volume!
How and why did you get involved in the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair? I was invited to show Tongoro at the fair, it's my first time and I am so excited to be a part of it! We have had a couple of clients in South Africa but it's country and a market that I don't really know and I am very excited to meet fun and fashionable ladies and introduce the brand to new people. It's a great initiative to showcase local products and even better to invite other countries creatives to join. I am very grateful for the opportunity.
Sarah will be exhibiting at the Sanlam Contemporary Handmade Fair at Hyde Park Corner Rooftop from 13-15 October 2017.