Monday, 26 September 2016

Dakar Markets - Marché Malien

The Marché Malien (Malian Market) is one of my favourite places in Dakar. It used to be situated around the gorgeous Gare de Dakar which up until a few years ago functioned as a train link between Dakar and Bamako, Mali. The Malian Market sprung up quite naturally around the station as it acted for so long as the trading link between Senegal and Mali. The station is no longer open, and the Dakar-Bamako train is a thing of the past, but the market lives on.

Stacks of shea butter, incense and jars of jewellery.


Sadly, while I was in Dakar in early 2015, the Malian Market was in the process of settling into a new location away from the train station and closer to the centre of town. Many of the traders were upset about this - it turns out the land the market had been on, next to the train station, had been sold to foreign investors and was about to be turned into apartments.

Despite this upheaval, business continued as usual and the traders were continuing to sell their wares even amongst last minute construction and without the electricity connected in the new site. I went to the market to source all the bogolanfini we used in the new collection (we wrote about the fabric here and our use of it here). I became somewhat of a regular, and whenever I needed to pick up some bogolanfini I would call Habib. 

Habib is Senegalese-Malian, and has been working at the market for a long, long time. He works in a store that sells all types of fabrics (Bamako is known as a the textile capital of West Africa for a reason) as well as beads, jewellery, beauty products, incense and traditional outfits (including the most stunning men's kaftans made from a heavy, handwoven cotton). Habib is a charmer, and would insist on teaching me some Bambara (the main language of Mali) and regularly slip small containers of fresh shea butter into my bag without me knowing! He is also a great negotiator, and we had a lot of laughs as I stumbled through my broken Wolof to try and get the right price! If you're in Dakar and looking to buy some bogolanfini, or any other Malian products, ask around for Habib at the market and tell him I said 'M'bifé' (which is the first expression he taught me in Bambara - it means 'I love you'!).

Habib at the Marché Malien


Extra viewing: Short documentary 'Dakar Terminus' (in French) documents the journey from Bamako to Dakar of female traders bringing 'thioup' (dyed cotton cloth called bazin). Around the 8:27 mark you get a great glimpse of what the Gare de Dakar was like in its heyday.












Thanks to Djibril Drame for the photos.

Friday, 23 September 2016

New Collection Launch

We're really excited to announce we're preparing to launch our newest range! As the sun begins to shine a little stronger and we begin to approach the glorious Australian summer, we've been busy working on a new way to bring the latest Madame Tây garments to you. We're also really excited to introduce you to the artisans we partnered with to create this new range of garments - so stay tuned!



Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Interview with Yevu



Welcome to the second interview in our "ethical" fashion series. Today, we speak to Anna Robertson - the force behind YEVU.

1. You’ve now been running YEVU for more than two years. Can you tell us the story about how YEVU got started and what were your motivations for creating  it?

I started YEVU with no long term plans. It was created quite organically out of a love of West African print and a vision to transform them for the Australian summer. The response in Sydney was pretty incredible and I realised there was a demand for it here, and its just grown since then. I think since that initial inception, its become much more than that - partnering with small businesses who have little income and working with mostly economically disadvantaged women has become the foundation for the enterprise. I am slowly trying to scale this side of it up, monitor, evaluate and grow in social impact.


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Dakar Markets - HLM



The bustling markets of Dakar and the people who we met there are such an important part of the Madame Tây creation process. We spent hours trawling through piles of fabric, visiting shop after shop and chatting with so many shop assistants and traders, its hard to remember everyone's names!

Today, we're giving you a glimpse of Marché HLM - Dakar's largest and most renown textile market.  HLM is the place we found lots of our wax print, some of the cotton and silk-mix linings we used, as well as buttons and zips. We'd like to show you around, and introduce you to some of the people we worked with to source all our materials. If you're in Dakar and are looking for textile supplies, drop us a line and we'll gladly pass on our friends' contact details.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Focus on Fabrics: Bogolanfini

Bogolanfini, otherwise known simply as bogolan has recently taken the Western design world by storm, with the distinctive geometric cloth popping up in all sorts of homewares and decoration sites. Despite this recent emergence in the Western design world, bogolanfini has a long history in Mali, where it originates and where it continues to play an important cultural role.


Bogolanfini by Naktune Diarra, The Smithsonian

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Bogolan Skirt with Sarah



One of my favourite things that we've made with Madame Tây so far is this skirt of beautiful bogolan or mud cloth fabric from Mali. Cara is writing a blog post about the history and cultural contexts of bogolan, and about the fascinating hand-dying processes used to create it. Bogolan is traditionally made in Mali and is strongly associated with Malian cultural identity, yet in recent years the cloth has also gained popularity within global fashion and design. By using this cloth outside of it's original cultural context, we are engaging in a form of appropriation that removes the fabric from its original meanings, so Cara is also going to explore this and discuss the ways in which bogolan production in Mali has been affected by global interest. We did not travel to Mali but purchased our bogolan at a Malian market in Senegal. Once Cara's post is ready I will link to it here!

For this post I'm going to focus on how to wear and care for the skirt.

I love the crisp white-on-black lines of the bogolan, so to keep these lines as the main focus of the outfit, I've worn the skirt with a plain fitted black t-shirt and black sandals, keeping everything monochrome. 

The skirt is quite fitted, like a pencil skirt fit, and tends to hug the body. There is a small slit at the back for easier movement. The fabric is a thick, soft cotton, which has a tiny bit of give, and is sturdy and comfortable to wear.


Let's take a closer look at the fabric!

It's possible to find fabrics that imitate the designs of bogolan, but are not actually created using a mud-dyeing process, for example thin linens and cottons that are machine-printed with bogolan-inspired patterns. These fabrics may also look good, but for our Madame Tây skirt we really wanted to source some genuine Malian bogolan, because the fabric has the most amazing individual character and texture, and we were trying to find fabrics that were local and hand-made in the region.

In these close-ups you can see how thick the fabric is. You can also see the underside of the fabric and how the design seeps through slightly. Cara's Malian friends taught her that if the design seeps through to the underside of the cotton, it is genuine bogolan, but if it doesn't seep through it probably didn't go through the same production process (soaking in ngamilla solution, mud dye, bleaching) and could be a mass produced variation.








Back of the skirt, with the hem turned up

The skirt has a cotton lining so it feels smooth and comfortable against the skin.



Because of the unique fabric, I think of this skirt as a piece of wearable art, rather than an every-day skirt. Treat it with care, like you would for a hand-woven fabric wall hanging. (Wearing the skirt does feel a bit like you're wearing a beautiful carpet or tapestry!) Even though the skirt can be easily styled for office-appropriate outfits, it's probably not the kind of piece you would wear to death every day at work and then just toss in the washing machine a couple of times a week. 

If anything, I would encourage owners of this skirt to wash it as little as possible! It's like having a quality suit or raw denim - basically you would spot clean it where necessary and avoid washing when it's not dirty. For the occasional clean, do a cold hand wash with very mild fabric wash. Since this is a hand-dyed piece and has not been treated for colour-fastness, I would expect some fading over time, and would always wash it separately to other clothes to avoid any colour transfer.

It takes a little bit of extra care, but I think it's worth it for such an interesting garment! This is a piece to treasure for many years.

The warmth and thickness of the cotton, and the long length, also make this a great skirt for autumn and winter outfits. Here I've worn it with a cosy jumper and boots.



Since we are quite a small-scale project, we only made a total of eight of these Bogolan Skirts. Perhaps one of them can find a home in your wardrobe.


photos by me, Steph and Carlo

Wax Prints with Sarah


This week Steph came over to my place to photograph some wax print outfits. We combined the wax print pieces with other things from my wardrobe and took some shots around the local backstreets.

First outfit is double wax print! This looks a bit like a dress, but it's actually a separate pencil skirt and top worn together, with a high-waisted gold belt and a simple pump shoe.


I love how this print looks like just a zig-zag pattern from further away, but when you look closely the zig-zags are little staircases and hand-railings.





The back of the top has a gold zip to make it easier to take on and off.


You can also wear the top and skirt as separates. Here is the skirt with a black cape-like singlet top. The minimal black balances out the busy print... it's still a colourful outfit but slightly more subtle that head-to-toe wax print.




Next we paired the top with some long navy shorts. This top can be dressed down as an easy casual piece. It's great for when the weather is really hot since the wax print cotton feels lightweight and airy.

pottering around the garden pretending to prune things


The wax print pencil skirt again, this time in a different print.






Here we've thrown a slouchy relaxed jacket over the top. By keeping everything else a neutral black the wax print stands out as the feature of the outfit.

I think wax print would also work well with crisp white separates, perhaps the skirt with a plain white t-shirt.

photos by Steph