Luxury French brand Saint Laurent, popularly known as YSL, has been accused of the typical fashion crime of copying a designer’s work and slapping your name on it. Also known as plagiarism or creative theft, this “crime” is something a lot of designers cannot be protected from.
Tongoro is a Senegalese brand launched by Ifren Media Group Founder and Owner Sarah Diouf. Launched May 2016, the brand focuses on boosting retail production in Western Africa and celebrating the continent. The brand is popular for their long clutch called the Mburu Bag: named after the word for “bread” in the Wolof language – which makes sense seeing as it is as long as the popular French bread, a baguette (not to be confused with Fendi of course). Sarah noticed a similarity between her bag and one of YSL’s pieces from it’s Fall 2017 accessories collection and wrote to Fashionista saying;
I couldn’t believe my eyes… This is our bag. A perfect replica of Tongoro’s MBURU bag, our signature accessory. Where else have you seen a 10 x 60 cm long baguette bag before?
According to Fashionista, a long clutch is not a new design in the industry, but the shape and texture of Saint Laurent’s new piece bears an uncanny resemblance to Tongoro’s and will possibly be sold at ten times the retail price of the Mburu bag, which retails between € 70.00 – € 80.00.
Tongoro is a young, made in Africa brand I started last year to develop the textile production industry here at home, in Dakar, Senegal, and the MBURU bag is our signature piece as it represents an essential part of our culture and embodies the very essence of our dignity: the ability to wake, get out and fight for yourself,” explained Diouf, who is half-Senegalese. “Youth employment in Senegal is a real issue; foreigners come here and see all these young guys on the streets trying to sell them anything, and it’s not that they’re not educated, but there aren’t enough job positions to fill. Yet you see them every morning, smiling, running, fighting for a dollar — selling cashews, toys, fruits or phone credit — because to hustle is to keep going despite the events.
The fashion industry has only begun to acknowledge new/little-known designers with the exhibition at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology Museum being an example of this. However, more designers (be it African or not) need to be celebrated in an industry known to struggle with inclusion and diversity. It’s important to give them visibility as well. Sarah continues;
Am I big enough to fight against a fashion institution like YSL? Maybe not, but my voice is, and I have to use what I have to make a statement that won’t stay unnoticed. For those who don’t understand, it’s like working on a project and getting an ‘F’ and seeing somebody copy you and getting an ‘A-plus’ credit for your work.” We reached out to Saint Laurent’s team for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.
The YSL brand has also been accused of copying Nigerian unisex accessory design label, Didi Isah and their heart shaped clutch. See the photos below.
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