Senegalese and American sustainable fashion brand Diarrablu has launched its first jewelry collection. Like the brand’s garments, each piece is carefully crafted to represent founder Diarra Bousso’s African heritage, while embracing technology with an eye to the future.
Much like the brand’s clothing, Bousso uses math to create her jewelry designs (she’s also a math teacher, learn more about her story here).
Each piece is handmade, mostly by Senegalese artisans with whom Bousso and his mother, Khoudia Dionna, Senegalese director of the brand, maintain relationships. And Bousso outsources his designs in an effort to reduce waste by only creating designs that are likely to sell.
I’ve previously shared with you Bousso’s incredible story of resilience and creativity, including a brush with death, amnesia, Wall Street and math, which led her to found Diarrablu. Below, she shares her inspiration and process for developing her first jewelry pieces, as well as how Diarrablu has evolved since the global pandemic began.
Is this your first time creating jewelry?
“Yes, this is my very first time. I’ve been working on it since summer 2021 and as usual I outsourced all the design with my Instagram audience using surveys. I had so many models to start, everywhere and after the polls I was able to narrow them down to the most wanted parts, it really helps us reduce waste and only produce what our customer wants.
What made you want to create a jewelry collection?
“I had two completely different inspirations that I wanted to bring together. On the one hand, I was inspired by the traditional adornments of Wolof and Fulani cultures and how jewelry is such an important symbol of wealth and identity. On the other hand, I was inspired by my own background in geometry and math and wanted to explore how various polygons and circular shapes can be stacked on top of each other to create unique jewelry. This is very aligned with the DIARRABLU brand focused on oxymorons such as tradition and technology or artisans and algorithms. I feel like as a creative born in Senegal, I’ve really learned to live at the intersection of culture, math and heritage and realizing that they’re not mutually exclusive at all is really stimulating.
How do you apply math to jewelry design?
“For our first jewelry collection, we used circular and polygonal parametric equations to create circles, half moons and rectangles which became the basic shapes we used to create earrings and rings. .
This process is quite unique because by simply changing some variables, we can design unexpected new shapes to create new styles of jewelry very effectively. We then share the jewelry with our followers via Instagram story polls and have them vote on what to produce so that we only do what is necessary to reduce waste.
We plan to explore further iterations of these geometric jewelry shapes for our upcoming summer collection and have sampled various recycled brass designs with our local artisan jeweler in Dakar, Senegal. I can’t wait to finish them.
Where are the parts made?
“The TWIST earrings, the Wolof earrings and the Luna ring are all handmade in Senegal by Wolof and Fulani artisans. I am from the Wolof ethnic group and jewelry is an integral part of our identity. It’s how we show who we are, how we celebrate love, and often, how we create family heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation. The earrings are handcrafted in 925 sterling silver and dipped in 18k gold and the iconic LUNA ring is handcrafted in recycled brass.
GEO earrings and LEAF earrings are made of brass and plated with 18k gold by artisan partners in China in a small factory that we have chosen to work with after reviewing their ethical audit report Sedex members. It was really exciting for me to source from outside of Senegal and I was happy to see that there are relationships in place to ensure we are working with global partners without compromising our business values and social responsibility.
Can you share a bit about how they are made?
“The process of creating these pieces is so rich and interesting. For example,
Wolof earrings represent family heirlooms in traditional Wolof society in Senegal and are perfect for meaningful gifts for special occasions like weddings, baby showers, engagements, or celebrations of self-love.
Handcrafted by artisans in sterling silver or pure gold, each pair takes five days to craft, as each geometric pattern is shaped by hand and carefully added to the overall piece. These earrings have been passed down from mother to daughter for special occasions such as weddings and worn for many generations as a symbol of cultural and family richness. of the largest nomadic groups in West Africa. The Fulani tribe is well known for their traditional jewelry, which culturally represents a symbol of wealth that they can wear at any time. The whole process is manual and no two parts are the same.
The Luna Ring: Trendy geometric ring handcrafted from recycled brass by artisans in Senegal and each piece may have slight variations depending on the type of brass used.
GEO earrings and LEAF earrings are geometric handicrafts and the process of creation is what I would call “digital craftsmanship”. You can see the images below for all the different geometric iterations that ultimately led to these pieces. I almost feel like a visual geometric algorithm.
Will you make more jewelry in the future? Are you going to expand the collection?
“Absolutely, I’m currently testing new models with a local blacksmith in Senegal and it’s so fun to be able to share my ideas via Whatsapp as I live in California and he sends me videos of the testing process. I’m also very interested in working with other artisans around the world and using jewelry to tell their stories. I’m currently exploring places like India and Morocco to create unique handcrafted pieces for future collections. It’s so stimulating to learn more about jewelry and what it means to different cultures.To be able to share this with the world is such a gift.
How is your business doing now that we are (hopefully) coming out of the pandemic?
“The company has grown tremendously since the pandemic. This year we have just started a partnership with Nordstrom, having previously only worked with Shopbop and Stitchfix. We have expanded our production workshop in Dakar more than three times and created many jobs. I just hired an operations manager in Senegal because my mom couldn’t handle the workload and the volume anymore. Our team has grown from less than 10 before the pandemic to over 45 today. The majority are in Dakar, Senegal, but we also have employees in New York, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Madrid, the Philippines, Cape Town and Abidjan, among others.