A luxury business, a luxury life

Born in Paris, raised in Abidjan and now building a fashion empire in Dakar, Senegal, African cosmopolite Sarah Diouf’s e-commerce sensation Tongoro – worn frequently by the likes of Beyoncé - isn’t the only thing that breathes luxury into her life.

By Ntokozo Maseko
Founder of Tongoro Studio – Sarah Diouf


The defining moment that sparked the founding of Tongoro:

This came after realizing their was a gap in the African fashion landscape. Most of the brands I loved were positioning themselves on the western luxury segment, and accessibility was also an issue. I thought it could be filled with more premium brands that would speak to a core customer like myself – a worldly, proudly African cosmopolite who’s wanting to look good without having to sell an arm.

Beyoncé in custom Tongoro during her Renaissance Tour

The vision for the brand:

 ‘Africa — to the world’… literally.

On the rise of slow fashion:

I think African fashion has always embodied the characteristics of slow fashion. Even if it’s by default, you cannot be more sustainable than that, so it’s been interesting to witness the emphasis on this new way to do things, when that’s all we’ve known.

The hallmark of luxury in acquiring a Tongoro item:

That would have to be the whole experience. To get something that has been handcrafted with love, pride and passion is luxury.

On breaking away from convention in building an African luxury brand:

I think the decision to use and solely focus on e-commerce for a newly launched African fashion brand was innovative and a bit daring; African goods have suffered from bad branding for decades, so it was a gamble. But I’m glad people gave it a try.


A dream panel of style icons:

I think of women like (Nigerian fashion entrepreneur) Reni Folawiyo, or actress Amanda Murray. Style is something personal and distinctive; it speaks for you so that you don’t have to. There are amazing people who make style happen and whose work I love, like designer Law Roach and journalist Ib Kamara. If I had to sit in a room and talk style, these four people would be my dream panel.

Sarah’s dream style icon panel would feature Reni Folawiyo
Sarah admires the work of fellow designer Law Roach (Image_ Instagram)
One of Sarah’s style favourites Ib Kamara (Image_ Instagram)

What luxury looks like in the home environment:

Quiet, peace and solar warmth. Time to just sit alone with my thoughts.

Where to shop, eat and relax in Dakar:

Sandaga or Colobane market for fabrics, and Nomad for the most amazing Moroccan home supplies. Sunset drinks at Copacabana Surf village is a must.

On art collections:

I started collecting African art two years ago. I have recently acquired a beautiful Alioune Diouf painting called The Field of Mankind – it’s mesmerising. But my most precious piece to date is a signed portrait my friend Kehinde Wiley made of me, which is so surreal.

Portrait of Sarah by artist Kehinde Wiley

My treasured family heirlooms:

I have a piece of red velvet fabric that my grandmother put in my crib when I was born. I’ve taken it pretty much everywhere with me ever since. It used to be around two meters long and it’s now in two small pieces, but I cherish it so much. She passed away four months ago, and I am glad that I still have that with me 30 years later. It is special to me and I hope to pass it on to my child or grandchild some day in memory of her.

I also have diamonds that my mother gifted me every other year until I turned 30, which I need to create something with. My mother is from the Central African Republic (CAR) – this is where I got the name Tongoro from, it means ‘star’ in Sango, which is the national language – and the country abounds in diamonds.

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