May 12, 2024

MEET A MUSE: MOTHER'S DAY EDITION

A mother-daughter interview in SHANGHAI!

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Hello from Shanghai !

I've been here for seven days with Africa Business Heroes, an incredible initiative by the Jack Ma Foundation that selects the top 10 entrepreneurs from Africa every year since 2019. I was a finalist in 2020 and the $100k grant I won helped me start the Dakar production facility and move out of producing clothes in my family home. This week was so rich in terms of connecting with incredible impact entrepreneurs from Africa, and at the end of the Summit, I decided to invite my mom (we just all call her Maman) to spend a week in China and explore restaurants, materials, shops and just relax together for mother’s day.

Maman and I have been working together since the start of this business, but now that we find ourselves in different corners of the world, I want to keep traveling with her as much as possible when I am not in Dakar. She's the one who runs our studio in Dakar while I manage the international team out of San Francisco. She flew in from Senegal to join me, and it was her first time in China. She is such a fashion icon no matter where we travel and I’m so here for it!

The team decided to do an interview with both my mom and me on how we inspire and support each other. She also got to share with you her favorite outfits for travel and her perspective on Shanghai. Diarrablu is also a story of mother-daughter love.

DIARRA

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How does your mother inspire, motivate, and support you to be creative and build the life and business you dream of?

Maman is an icon, and she has 4 kids and we are her biggest fan. Since I was little she always pushed me to believe in myself. I admire her a lot for her patience, kindness, and ability to fit so many people in her heart. Like she thinks of everybody and has this ability to make people feel seen, heard, and loved. Her love language is words of affirmation, and I will say whether I am in Dakar or San Francisco, there is not a single week where I don’t get super long voice notes from my mom sending me the most beautiful prayers and affirmations about life, what I am capable of and the importance of believing in everything my heart desires. This support means the world to me. She is my rock!

Can you tell us a piece of hard advice your mom has given you?

The biggest piece of advice Maman gave me was to always approach people with love and empathy. She is the ultimate empath, and this has helped me a lot especially when dealing with people I don’t necessarily see eye to eye with. 

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Having this ability to see things from other people’s perspectives and have the patience to be willing to listen and understand them is one of the biggest life hacks both in my personal and professional life.

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Can you share a memorable moment from your trip together to Shanghai?

Yes! She landed after over 20+ hours of flying from Senegal and was so exhausted. So we went to the hotel, and after she took a shower, I thought she would want just to sleep, but she literally opened her suitcase and started showing me all the DIARRABLU outfits she had planned with matching jewelry and bags and started trying them out and runway walking for me. She then said: Let’s hit the town, Shanghai I am ready! And we just went out for a 2-hour stroll on NanJing Road, one of the largest shopping districts in the world. People were just stopping her and taking photos of her because she was just fabulous, and her energy is contagious. 

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That moment inspired me so much in terms of how her sense of fashion and style is truly about self-love and as a result, she gets to spread love everywhere.

How has working with your mom at DIARRABLU influenced your relationship, both personally and professionally?

It made us closer. It was very hard at first because she is a helicopter African mom who likes to hover over and micromanage me as her daughter, and it took us a while to find a balance between when I am Diarra her daughter, and Diarra her work partner. Now, it’s a lot easier because we both know where the line is. For example, I know when we are engaging as mother and daughter and know to be the humble and polite kid she expects, and we also know when it’s work-related, and I am assertive and wearing a different hat. Having learned to navigate these 2 sides of working together taught us both a lot about being patient and valuing each other’s strengths. 

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ph: Lorenzo Montanelli

In what ways do you draw inspiration from each other, creatively and personally?

I would say we inspire each other in our differences. I see myself as a creative daydreamer who goes with the flow in general, but somehow, when I work with my mom, it’s the opposite, I become super-rational and organized otherwise, we get sidetracked. So, in terms of team management, she sees me as a decisive, organized, assertive person, and she is more on the warm, deliberate, and thoughtful side, and we both help each other find the right balance. Personally, I learn a lot from her ability to motivate people, and I think she enjoys my determination and problem-solving side, like I’m so tenacious and never take no for an answer and she often says that inspires her. 

MAMAN KHOUDIA

What inspires you most about your daughter? Do you have a proudest moment you'd like to share?

What inspires me most about Diarra is how determined she is. It doesn’t matter what problem you give her, she will solve it and enjoy the process of doing it. She is so solutions-oriented about business and life and is positive and abundant in how she approaches everything. Even when she is having a bad day, she is so quick to adjust her perspective and share with me all the lessons she is learning from it. Her ability to just choose positive thinking is her biggest strength and as a result, she never ever gives up. I have always been proud of her, so it’s hard to pick a proudest moment, but one of the ones that stands out is when she told me that she wanted to celebrate her identity and culture through her career back in 2012 when she started ideating on DIARRABLU. She left home at 16 to move to Norway, and for her to come back at 23 and be proud of where she comes from made me so proud. 

Diarra has maintained a strong connection to her home country and culture. What do you want people to know about Senegal, its people, and its traditions?

I love that she is celebrating Senegal and our culture. I think what makes me happiest is that she is not just sharing Senegal in terms of a tourist destination or landmark but really goes deep about who we are as people and what makes us unique. Senegalese people are so regal and elegant, not just in how we dress but in our manners. 

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Beauty is in your personality and how you treat others, and one of our main values is called ‘Teranga’, which means hospitality. This warm and welcoming side of our culture is the core, and it's something I want the world to see. 

As a mother, how do you balance supporting Diarra's career while also nurturing your mother-daughter bond?

It’s definitely an interesting question because I am her mother first, and that is my priority. She always says ‘I am not a child anymore’ and doesn’t realize in my eyes she will always be a child. She travels a lot and whenever she is on a plane, I am praying and getting anxious until she lands; that will never change even when she is 60. I also have a lot of opinions and always share them with her, she has become really good at listening and sharing her perspective, and I have grown to appreciate that. On the business side, she actually manages me a lot more than I manage her because she is so specific and quite intense actually. This used to be challenging because she moves very fast and has so many ideas and I have to remind her often that things take time. She can come up with hundreds of designs per day in her tech world, and I often have to remind her that in Dakar, we are in the physical handmade world, and things will take time. Navigating when to be her mom and when to be the head of Dakar is definitely a constant dance. 

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ph: Lorenzo Montanelli

Can you offer any advice to other mothers on how to support their adult children in pursuing their dreams?

What I learned with Diarra is that you need to really believe in your children’s dreams, even if they don’t make sense at first. She dreams very big, and in the beginning, she used to sound unrealistic and naive, and over time, I have realized most of what she said, she made it happen. So now I just support her in whatever direction she dreams about while also being very honest about where I see risks and encourage her to consider both sides. I also think it’s important when you don’t agree with your adult children to express it in a way that’s constructive and flexible and always prioritize empathy over being right. 

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What aspects of your trip to Shanghai stand out the most to you?

I loved going shopping with Diarra and exploring textile mills together. Diarra is so creative and when she is surrounded by art, design, and fabrics, she just gets so excited and starts dreaming out loud all her ideas. In between stores, we would stop and have food or ice cream, and just like Diarra I have a very sweet tooth, so on day 1 we averaged over 3 ice cream stops in the day and it was so nice and reminded me of when she was little. 

Could you share some of your favorite travel outfits with us?

During the trip to Shanghai, my go-to was the LEER Pants because we were always on the move, and they are so comfortable. The elastic waist means I don’t have to worry about how much I wear, and the pockets make it so convenient to hold my phone and move freely. 

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In terms of accessories, I carried the NUUR bag in Noir to carry my lipstick and phone and styled my look with the leaf earrings and Fete bracelet. I loved that people would just stop me to take my photo and ask for my outfit, and Diarra was hyping me up so much that I felt very special. 

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Lastly, the poncho is a must for a transitional piece. I actually made a custom one for the trip, all black and it was great because Shanghai does get cold in the mornings and evening but not cold enough for a big jacket, so the poncho was perfect and so elegant.

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I love the DIARRABLU pieces in general because they are inspired by our traditional boubous and caftans, and as a result, they are loose, comfortable and easy to wear while still making you stand out.

As a mother, how do you balance supporting Diarra's career while also nurturing your mother-daughter bond?

It’s definitely an interesting question because I am her mother first, and that is my priority. She always says ‘I am not a child anymore’ and doesn’t realize in my eyes she will always be a child. She travels a lot and whenever she is on a plane, I am praying and getting anxious until she lands; that will never change even when she is 60. I also have a lot of opinions and always share them with her, she has become really good at listening and sharing her perspective, and I have grown to appreciate that. On the business side, she actually manages me a lot more than I manage her because she is so specific and quite intense actually. This used to be challenging because she moves very fast and has so many ideas and I have to remind her often that things take time. She can come up with hundreds of designs per day in her tech world, and I often have to remind her that in Dakar, we are in the physical handmade world, and things will take time. Navigating when to be her mom and when to be the head of Dakar is definitely a constant dance. 

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What do you wish the Diarrablu muses knew about Diarra?

I wish everyone knew how hard she works and how passionate she is. Diarra is borderline obsessive about work, but in a beautiful way. She wakes up in the middle of the night and sends in the family group chat over 50 messages or pictures with her ideas, dreams and sketches and that’s just how she operates. Designing is truly her calling, and when she is in the zone, she can’t stop. As her mom, sometimes I have to monitor that because I know she also really values her health and sleep. I wish people could see how much thought and intentionally she puts into everything she does. It’s really inspiring for me and the team. 

SHOP MOM'S LOOKS

Leer Ben Pants - Lines Black
Leer Pants - LINES - diarrablu
Leer Ben Pants - Lines Black
Leer Pants - LINES - diarrablu
Leer Ben Pants - Lines Black
Leer Pants - LINES - diarrablu
Leer Ben Pants - Lines Black
Leer Pants - LINES - diarrablu

Leer Ben Pants - Lines Black

$108.00
Leer Pants - Suto Black
Leer Pants - SUTO - diarrablu
Leer Pants - Suto Black
Leer Pants - SUTO - diarrablu
Leer Pants - Suto Black
Leer Pants - SUTO - diarrablu
Leer Pants - Suto Black
Leer Pants - SUTO - diarrablu

Leer Pants - Suto Black

$108.00
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream
Satu Dress - Lava Cream

Satu Dress - Lava Cream

$225.00
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu
Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream - diarrablu

Reversible Amy Ben Poncho - Tilo Cream

$156.00