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.

This is Malick. Malick runs Dakar's best zip store! It is tiny, and full to the brim of bags upon bags of zips of all shapes, colours and sizes. Cara would go to see Malick and ask for a specific size, colour and type of zip and he would deftly climb piles of bags to the exact place where such a zip was kept. For a few weeks during production, Malick had travelled to a different city and Cara and his replacement spent hours looking for the right zips - no one else knows his store like he does!

This is Abdou. Abdou runs a tiny little stall inside the dark corridors of HLM market. He is incredibly friendly and was super patient as Cara stumbled through her broken Wolof to explain what sort of fabric she was looking for everytime she'd visit him. Abdou would help her search the whole market if she needed a specific colour or fabric, and sold us lots of the lovely, thick cotton and some beautifully soft silk-mix that we used to line some of our garments.

This is Yaye - you might remember him from our blog post last year about indigo fabric. Cara was super happy to run into him at HLM market once again, and bought lots of great indigo thioup - a soft, beaten cotton fabric from Guinea. Yaye is well known around HLM - when Cara went to see him, she learnt to ask around for 'Borom Thioup' ('borom' is Wolof for 'boss') and would quickly find him. Yaye is a lovely guy, and speaks some English as he grew up in anglophone Gambia, but prefers to converse in Wolof - which was a gladly accepted challenge for Cara! Yaye also has incredible balance and will walk around HLM with a (heavy!) pile of cloth resting on his head.

This is El Hadji. El Hadji sells a huge range of pagne tissé (woven cloth) in the middle of the market. El Hadji's stall is in the middle of a row of other stalls selling pagne tissé and Cara got to know him on her first visit - many of the other sellers were agressively trying to sell her cloth, and El Hadji had such a gentle approach (and look at that smile!). El Hadji stocks pagne tissé from across Senegal - in the photo above you can see the neutral coloured cloth to his left, which is mainly from the Serere people, and to his right are rolls of the brighter, shiny pagne tissé he sources from Mandjak weavers from Guinea-Bissau who work around Dakar.

This is Mohammed. Mohammed is originally from Sierra Leone, and would enthusiastically greet Cara in English everytime she walked past! Mohammed owns his stall in conjuction with his mother, who herself has her own stall further into the market. Mohammed sells a range of beautiful wax print, but his best seller is the hand-jewelled lengths of lace (in the photos he is using his embossing machine to apply the blingy jewels that Senegalese women adore!). Mohammed was really helpful, and very patient as Cara decided upon which gorgeous wax prints to purchase for our new collection.

Thanks to Djibril Drame for the photos. 


  1. You know I met Yaye and El Hadji only one short time with you at the market, but ever single time I see them, they ask where you are! I don't even remember meeting El Hadji, but we only went to the market together one time, so I must have met him then. I'm always humbled and flabbergasted when people who see hundreds of people each day remember me after just a 1-2 minute hello.

    Where is Mohammed's shop? It looks a lot less crowded and intense than the other shop I normally visit...thus a more enjoyable experience for me.

    1. Ah, they are such gentle men (not gentlemen, I really mean men who are gentle!).

      I will send you Mohammed's phone number - he would be thrilled to meet you, and his mother and tata are adorable too! I could describe to you where it is, but I know our HLM orientation is different.

  2. Many thanks for the very interesting article!
    Do you have a phone number for El Hadji or a recommendation of how to find him?

    1. El Hadji is an easy guy to find! Head into HLM, and ask where the pagne tissé section is - there is a long line of small shops (including El Hadji's) where they only sell woven cloth. Ask for El Hadji or show his photo to anyone in the market and I'm sure you'll find him! If you don't speak Wolof, probably a good idea to take a wolof speaker with you too.