Senegal fashion brand Tongoro accuses Balmain of stealing their designs

Tongor v Balmain. Picture: Instagram.

Tongor v Balmain. Picture: Instagram.

Published Jan 22, 2024


It’s Paris Fashion Week and not everyone is pleased with the designers who are showcasing.

Often, people get excited when they see designers launch their newest collections. However, there were mixed reactions about the Balmain Autumn/Winter 2024 collection.

Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain, received backlash after launching the menswear collection at Paris Fashion Week on Saturday, January 20.

The designer was accused of copying the Tongoro “Cairo” face jewellery piece.

At first, Balmain’s followers thought Rousteing had collaborated with Tongoro, only to find that they didn’t credit them.

Sarah Diouf, the founder of Tongoro, didn’t take it lightly and took to social media to shame Rousteing.

She expressed how hurtful it is for African designers to be discredited by Western brands who copy their work.

Diouf wrote: “The visible similarity of the piece presented by @olivier_rousteing for his @balmain FW24 Men’s collection to ours is a challenging and painful event, questioning yet again the actual regards Western brands claim to have towards African creativity while openly saying being « inspired » by it … How long?”

The Senegal designer said she launched the jewellery in May 2019 In Dakar, inspired by the Wodaabe tribe men’s make-up.

“Always been intrigued by African traditional facial ornaments, and the #Wodaabes are by far one the most fascinating to me — The traditional face painting (which can take up to 6 hours) emblematic of their tribe, is done for the #Gerewol ceremony, an annual courtship competition where men are judged by their beauty to be later picked by women who are ready for marriage (ha!).

“The nose line’s long make-up (white, yellow), is set to enhance their beautiful features … Funny enough, this is a beauty trick also used by ancient # Egyptian men (black, gold), which they later limited to their eyes.

“When you think about it, we have so many beautiful cultures and rites to draw inspiration from,” Diouf said, at the time of launching the piece.

The jewellery quickly became a sensation, with Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Naomi Campbell being the first celebrities to wear the Tongoro “Cairo” face jewellery piece.

Fashion lovers have since flooded Rousteing’s comments section on Instagram, telling him to do right by Diouf.

“I was unaware, but once I went to look, it was extremely clear that he ripped off this designer’s jewellery. So unfortunate. I hope he does the right thing,” said @mylovelylife82130.

Another Instagram user, @boogy_maboi, said: “We love you, but please say something about the face jewellery similar to @tongorostudio and the royal durag from @selfhood_official featured in the collection.”

Balmain and Rousteing have yet to respond to the allegations.