MARCH 21, 2024

The Incredible Journey to my TED Talk

capturing the timeless beauty of human connection

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My journey to a TED Talk felt like stepping into a whole new world. Back in spring 2022, I received an email from TED curators inviting me to share my innovative work for their next Idea Search competition and honestly, I thought it was a prank from my friends. It blew my mind that TED, this renowned resource and platform, where we all go for a daily dose of inspiration, wanted to hear from me.

Over the next three months, I honed in on my topic and created a two-minute video that highlighted the uniqueness of my work and its potential to inspire change. I decided to focus on DIARRABLU’S unique approach to sustainability and how it is rooted at the heart of our business model. For me, it was essential to share something that was never covered on the TED stage before. My focus was on addressing the fashion industry's pollution issue and emphasizing how we leverage mathematics and artificial intelligence to efficiently prototype designs. This approach, coupled with crowdsourcing from our community, ensures that we only produce products based on demand, thereby significantly reducing textile waste.

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For me, sustainability was never a buzzword, it is at the heart of everything we do and the only way to do it. It was very clear from the beginning that it was never about the word, but rather the act; when you love something, you sustain it!

Fast forward to July 2022, I was on my summer escapade in Mykonos while preparing for my official TED interview. Presenting to a panel of TED judges and curators felt pretty intense, especially with so many smart people sharing their incredible ideas. Having my parents there in the Zoom call, sending encouraging texts, was super sweet. After the presentation, I was just happy to have made it that far.

On September 23 2022, I got this incredible email and couldn’t stop screaming! ME! A Winner of their Idea Search! I couldn’t share publicly besides a close circle and we celebrated with emojis and never ending voice notes of encouragement.

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For the next 14 months, I worked closely with the TED team to define, fine tune and master my ultimate TED talk ensuring that the message was both impactful and universally accessible. Finding out that I would be speaking at the TED@BCG conference in Paris added a whole new level of excitement.

My TED Talk centered around 3 ways to make fashion more sustainable based on my experience with DIARRABLU. The objective was to present actionable learnings that could be applied by fashion entrepreneurs and beyond, to inspire a more responsible approach to designing and selling physical products while reducing waste. (1).gif__PID:115663e2-ff54-4164-a206-347d60b674aa

The day of the talk, November 12, 2023, was unforgettable. Standing there, ready to share my story with everyone, including my sister who'd come all the way from Senegal, and some close family and friends from Paris, was just incredible. The TED glam squad didn’t come to play and I felt absolutely beautiful and confident to step on that stage and tell my story.

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The slides featured various elements of this journey we’ve embarked on together, from the family photos showing my inspiration and love for Senegal, to the algorithmic design animations leading to all the various crowdsourcing voting sessions we have done together. From our iconic campaign photoshoot in the Maldives to pictures of our artisans making your dresses with love, I stood there so grateful, motivated, and pumped at the endlessness of possibilities.

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The content of my talk, "How to choose clothes for longevity, not the landfill," delved into the hidden costs of convenience in the fashion industry. I highlighted the staggering rate at which the industry contributes to global waste, emphasizing the urgent need for change. Did you know that 1 garbage truck full of clothes ends up in a landfill every second?

I shared a very personal turning point in my journey from July 2012, following a life-threatening accident that compelled me to reevaluate my life's trajectory. My path to recovery, surrounded by the nurturing presence of my family in Senegal, instilled in me a profound appreciation for a culture “where philosophically, it’s not really about the word sustainability, but the active act of sustaining everything we love: traditions, resources, culture!”

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This cultural ethos became the bedrock of DIARRABLU, guiding our mission to foster a brand that prioritizes responsible production. We encouraged conscious consumption in a way that still works for the modern world – a world where people want more choices and the ability to act on their preferences.

Key strategies I shared included:

1) Engaging customers in the design process to cultivate a shared sense of responsibility in co-creating a responsible future together in order to limit over-production;
2) Producing on demand or based on pre-orders to minimize excess inventory;
3) Actively mitigating returns to reduce over-consumption and waste.

 These principles, while born from the needs of DIARRABLU, are extendable to the broader fashion industry, creating a simple blueprint for a more sustainable future in fashion.

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Sign up to participate in our next crowdsourcing and help us reduce waste.


Personally, the highlight of my talk was the moment I closed with this beautiful painting I made back in 2013. It was titled ‘Walking to a new beginning’ and symbolizes back then my decision to believe in myself , leave everything behind and take a bold step toward a new future, in spite all the chaos I had gone through.

Back then, the act of simply walking was a miracle, painting it was my way to eternalize the magic. And to be able to walk, run, dance, fly all these years and now stand on the TED stage with this very same painting to show the world it’s all possible is one of those moments I will never forget in my entire life!

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I closed with this beautiful message that truly captures what inspires me to ‘sustain’ magic.

“I was granted a second chance at life, and that instilled in me a strong desire to sustain not only my health but also our shared resources, culture, and most importantly the gift of life on this precious planet we take so much for granted.”

As I wrapped up my TED Talk, the overwhelming support and feedback from the audience reaffirmed the potential for collective action in driving significant change.

The journey to and through the TED Talk was not just about sharing my story but about inspiring a wave of change that hopefully transcends industries, encouraging us all to embrace sustainability not as a choice but as a necessity for our shared future.

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In sharing this journey, my hope is to ignite a spark of inspiration within all of you. To encourage a reevaluation of our consumption habits and advocate for meaningful change. For me, this is a journey that doesn't end with a talk but continues with each decision we make, each step we take towards a more responsible future.

A big thank you to the wonderful TED Curators and to the BCG team for giving me this incredible opportunity. I will never forget!

Thank you.