Kadidiatou Touré, founder of l’Armoire Sahélienne
Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Kadidiatou Toure. I am half Malian, half Senegalese, born in Senegal but having spent most of my formative years in the US. I grew in a very much traditional Senegalese / Malian family — ate the local food, was raised with the associated values and with the related expectations about what one was to become in life, so I studied economics, international development, gender and political science and worked most of my life in development organizations.
I have always however had a bit of a creative streak, I love everything that is beautiful, from physical environments to fashion. I have a deep seated love for women. I find that they embody beauty through their grace and strength, and find that their empowerment is the key to the world’s advancement. And I also love human relations, hearing people’s stories, understanding different experiences and exchaning.
How was your brand born?
I travelled a lot for work in my earlier years. I am also fascinated with travel and discovering new cultures and what they can teach you. In every country I go to I find that the local market is the place to go to really discover a culture. From the foods that they eat, to the physical structure of the stalls to the bargaining approach, you learn a lot from markets.
I am also a ‘girl’ at heart and always went to craft markets where I could find jewelry, particularly stately neck pieces (because I am a bit of a drama queen). Because I was always asked where I got my jewelry, and because one can’t own all of the jewels in the world, I started buying jewels from different countries that had a flair and would sell them.
In early 2018, I decided to make a project of it, I had the contacts of the artisans and the desire to see where this could go, and I also always had a specific request about how an accessory should look, so I started designing pieces that are made by artisans from across Africa, and here we are today.
Can you tell me about your design?
In our work, we try to merge traditional concepts from various cultures across the African continent with some of the concepts or defining lines of modernity to come up with pieces that are contemporary and easy to wear but still have some spunk.
We’ve worked on a line of jewels inspired from the traditional fulani earring, converting the earring into necklaces and bracelets and integrating it into the hoop earring in line with hip hop fashion from the early 90's. We have a line that builds baoule or akan bronze pieces into pearl and crystal neclaces, earrings and bracelets.
We have a set of jewels that merge masai beads and akan pieces such as the royal stool, krobo beads and recycled glass. And we have a set of leather necklaces that play on volume to make a statement in your outfit. Recently we have launched a collection of bags that have very modern and adrogynous shapes but are made out of leather that is tie dyed in the traditional malian fashion. All of our goods are handmade.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Most of my realisations are things that I want for myself :-). I know this is perhaps not the most business saavy approach to things, because everyone doesn’t have the same taste, but I think it was Warren Buffet that said that you should invest in things that you believe will work. And so I make pieces I would wear, because if I will wear something, and love it, I can defend it.
How do you work?
Currently in a very haphazard and disorganized way. I think up things when I am at the gym, when I see someone stylish wearing something I like, when I see two colors that work well together, so essentially any time and all of the time — which is bad for my limited brain space. I generally try to draw or explain the concepts immediately, which means my producers also think i’m crazy :-).
Which stage do you prefer in the realization?
When an artisan finishes something you asked for and its either exactly what you wanted or better than what you imagined. I get a feeling of accomplishment, like i was able to create something beautiful. I also get the same feeling when people wear something they got from me and are happy.
What is your particularity, your singularity?
Understated drama (and for some pieces just stated drama :-)). I have always worked in a very restrictive, conservative environment with strict norms around appearance and the way I have worked around that is to wear pieces that meet the norms of conservative modernity, but always with a little piece that is different or makes a statement, and that is how I view my pieces as wearable but that make you stop and say ‘now that’s different’.
Do you have a favourite creation?
A necklace I call Makeda after the queen of sheba, which combines a sinewy bronze neckline that accentuates the sensuality of a woman’s necline, and has hanging on one side strands of leather –which bring not only the modern touch, but rebellion and difference as the integration of leather in necklaces is not very common, and end with different baoule bronze pieces. It’s a stunning piece that communicates, strength, femininity, beauty and is anchored in Africa.
Where to get your creations?
Currently you can find a selection of jewels on our etsy store.
The pieces are also available at Kelen.