The plot thickens as it turns out Tongoro is not the originator of the face jewellery as claimed

Tongoro VS Balmain. Picture: Instagram.

Tongoro VS Balmain. Picture: Instagram.

Published Jan 23, 2024


The plot thickens as designers continue to battle over who the originator of face jewellery is.

On January 22, Sarah Diouf, the founder of Tongoro, took to social media to air her grievance about Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing.

Diouf accused Rousteing of copying her “Cairo” face jewellery piece. She claimed to have launched the piece in May 2019 after being inspired by the Wodaabe tribe men’s make-up.

She wrote on Instagram: “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?”

But it turns out that Diouf is not the original designer as she claimed. It is alleged that she copied that design from Kenyan designer Theresia Kyalo, who released the jewellery range in February 2019.

“Isn’t life funny? Having your work stolen by a brand and then having the said brand have the work restolen by yet another bigger brand. Happy to have been alive long enough to see this come full circle,” commented Kyalo.

However, it is believed that Kyalo is also not the originator of the design. Netherlands jewellery designer Emmy Jetty van Leersum launched face jewellery in 1974.

While it is unclear where she may have gotten her inspiration, it’s safe to say the designers who claimed to be originators of the designer are not the originators.

Instead of making such claims, designers should acknowledge one another and keep it moving because fashion evolves all the time.