Khadija Aisha Ba’s distinctive style provides an evocative foretaste of the unique, meticulously crafted wares for which she’s become well known in both her home city, Dakar and the fashion world at large. Dressed in her signature colourful boubou, headscarf and Converse sneakers, her look signifies the fusion of past and present so evident in her L’Artisane label. With covetable pieces ranging from slouchy bags to scarves, jewellery and apparel in a dazzling array of saturated hues and textures, she’s recently added home decor items to her creative repertoire.
Aisha Ba runs her business in partnership with her aunt, Serey, whom she considers something of an icon for her ‘one-of-a-kind, unpredictable’ fashion sense (and in whose honour the brand’s eponymous, celebrated bag was named). She’s also deeply inspired by her family elders. ‘They’ve always been a big influence. Their style, as well as the stories they tell about Dakar in the Seventies, from fashion to architecture and lifestyle, all nd their way into my work, which is mostly concerned with bringing that sort of “golden era” back to life in a modern, relevant way.’
When she’s not in her boutique, an inspiring space where ‘ideas usually come to me at night when it’s calm’, she divides her time visiting the workplaces of the various local artisans with whom the label collaborates, ‘checking execution, working on details and just bringing those ideas to life’.
Craftsmanship and the creation of rare designs are the essence of the brand. ‘We really strive to stick to these,’ she notes, adding that her customers are drawn to specific L’Artisane pieces because they know they won’t be seen on anyone else. An integral part of this process comes from working with Senegalese artisans using techniques that have been passed down through generations. ‘Nowadays, it’s increasingly di cult to nd young artisans pursuing their elders’ business. I think it’s also because perceptions have changed and youngsters no longer see it as valuable. That’s where local designers come in and have a serious role to play in putting that side of our culture back on the map,’ she says.
‘My ultimate goal is to show a different face of Africa to the world: the vivid, hard-working, creative Africa that looks to tradition to create our own modernity,’ says Aisha Ba. ‘If, in the process, I can help the local economy by working with artisans, it’s a home run!’
HOW HAS YOUR HERITAGE SHAPED YOUR WORK?
I was born into a family of women (especially both my grandmothers) with a high sense of fashion. Looking at their pictures today, I can still see and feel their love for it, but also for interior design and the culinary arts.
DESCRIBE YOUR OWN STYLE
It’s timeless, because I like pieces that have had several lives before I wear them, but which somehow still make perfect sense in my very urban, modern lifestyle. I like to think that I’m an old soul because I’ve been wearing my grandfather’s outfits for two decades now. My style’s also unique: in a crowd, people usually spot me right away because of my colourful headscarves. And it’s comfortable: I’m running a business – literally running. Wearing Converse is first and foremost a matter of comfort!
HOW HAVE TECHNOLOGY AND GLOBALISATION AFFECTED YOUR WORK?
They’ve affected it a lot but in a positive way. Now you can reach thousands of people around the world in a click. There are endless business opportunities. Creatively, there’s also positive impact as we allow ourselves to be influenced by different cultures.
WHAT DEFINES THE DESIGNERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS AND OTHER CREATIVES WITH WHOM YOU COLLABORATE?
A certain sense of aesthetics, but – above all – common values: I like working with creative people who respect others and their work and are passionate about what they do.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Anything and everything – and, very often, the most random things, like the fruit and vegetable market, Dakar’s street life, religion, my grandfather’s closet and the women in my family.
TELL US ABOUT THE GENESIS OF THE SEREY BAG
It came to life in 2014, but had been in the pipeline for a couple of years before that. We’d been asking ourselves what would make our signature bag. The shape? The handle? The inside? We wanted a unique piece that would still be able to evolve. We started with the medium size and then became bolder with the XL version. Get ready for the new design, out now!
CREATIVE NAMES TO WATCH?
I believe Mamy Tall represents the future of architecture for her open-mindedness, vision and holistic view of the arts. Fashion designer Selly Raby Kane is also way ahead of the game. Her universe is quite amazing.
BEST-KEPT SECRET IN DAKAR?
The Madeleines Islands, a few kilometres off the coast.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR L’ARTISANE?
In addition to L’Artisane Home, we’re collaborating with Alara for a men’s babouche collection.