Imag­ine see­ing your African-inspired cre­ation on a Euro­pean run­way. Imag­ine that instead of your name on the label there is the sig­na­ture of a major fash­ion brand.  Sene­galese design­er Sarah Diouf expe­ri­enced this exact sce­nario when she dis­cov­ered her design on a run­way at Paris Fash­ion Week. In a let­ter on Okay Africa, she expressed her shock at the promi­nent French-based Yves Saint Laurent’s (YSL) debut of (what appeared to be) a repli­ca of her Ton­goro MBURU bag.

MBURU means [bread] in wolof. The name of the bag is inspired by the #Dakar youth hus­tling spir­it — who wakes up to earn their ‘bread’ every sin­gle day. The MBURU bag is an essen­tials keep­er ; your phone, your cards and maybe some change (…) all you need to go out there and make it hap­pen for your­self — with style.” — Diouf on Okay Africa

Source: Okay Africa

From the design­er her­self:

“On Feb 28, YSL debuted their new Fall-Win­ter 17 col­lec­tion in Paris, with a crowd bow­ing down to Antho­ny Vaccarello’s extrav­a­gant über-luxe aes­thet­ic.

Two days lat­er, I was receiv­ing a text from my assis­tant, invit­ing me to peruse some of the looks details.
I couldn’t believe my eyes « But this is OUR bag…». Yep, no doubt. This is our bag.
A per­fect repli­ca of Tongoro’s MBURU bag : our sig­na­ture acces­so­ry. And there is no chance they could have seen it else­where, because « Where else have you seen a 10x 60cm long baguette bag before? » Exact­ly.

I remem­ber com­ing to my friends, edi­tors, and any oth­er per­son I would try to con­vince it was the next it-state­ment-acces­so­ry, get­ting laughed and looked at with per­plex eyes. Again, « Where else have you seen a 10x 60cm long baguette bag before? »”


Ton­goro MBURU Bag. Source:

In our opin­ion, the bags are strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar in appear­ance and tex­ture — so much so that they look to be from the same design­er. While it is no secret that fash­ion breeds inspiration/imitation which then breeds fash­ion, it is also no secret that stolen con­cepts are a huge issue in the indus­try.

“We all know trends come and go, but when it comes to some­thing that nev­er came from any­where else but your­self, you feel robbed from inside. And that’s a feel­ing I have nev­er expe­ri­enced before.
I think about all the times I scrolled over design­er Auro­ra James posts com­plain­ing about how Zara stole her Broth­er Vel­lies designs, and thought « Wow… » think­ing it only hap­pens to oth­ers. Well, today I am the oth­er.

Right after gath­er­ing my thoughts, I knew I couldn’t let this go. Because the pur­pose and the sto­ry behind what I do is big­ger than an über-luxe aes­thet­ic, and I won’t let any­one rob me from the only weapon that keeps me going and take a stand for a place some only look at for inspi­ra­tion : my cre­ativ­i­ty.”

Do you see an eerie resem­blance?



Empow­er­ing women of col­or to break bar­ri­ers. Cherish.Thy.Melanin.

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13 Comments on "So, Is YSL Gon’ Pretend They Didn’t Just Rip Off a Senegalese Designer?"

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I have a book on design pub­lished in 2010. This exact same shape bag is in that book by some east­ern euro­pean design­er. It’s noth­ing new.


Love Togoro’s style! Hope that she gets the cred­it that’s due to her!


Unless this young design­er gets her lawyer to send YSL lawyers a cease and desist let­ter, noth­ing will change. It is no use her whing­ing to her friends. She needs to respond like how THEY would respond if she were the pla­gia­riz­ing par­ty. That’s the only lan­guage they respect.


Actu­al­ly, Chanel has been mak­ing this exact same bag since 1990. The Sene­galese woman should have done some research before mak­ing this claim.

michelle spice

This has been gen­er­a­tional. Why are peo­ple like you still sup­port­ing this type of oppres­sion?

Black Girl With Long Hair

How am I sup­port­ing oppres­sion? Did I say that I buy YSL? I don’t…


Instead of steal­ing it, they could have clab­o­rat­ed with her and done great things! THIS MUST STOP! …tired of them tak­ing things and call­ing it theirs.…especially when it comes to “us”.


So, what will hap­pen next?

michelle spice

it took you all long enough to wise up! they are not spe­cial turn the
steer­ing and change the course of the ship, they need us we don’t need them…

Eleanor Anderson

White design hous­es always steal black ideas and make mon­ey off them. I read some­where that they will send assis­tants Into the urban neigh­bor­hoods, ( empha­sis on HOOD), to see what the teens are wear­ing that is not, so called main­stream, and elab­o­rate on it. Next thing you see your unique style in the fash­ion mags. Soul­shad­ows55, you’re sooo right, they have stolen from Africa, and African Amer­i­cans, and nev­er even acknowl­edged our input. Yet they try to say the black race is paracitic, and nev­er makes any con­tri­bu­tions to the world.

maria joseph

The same hap­pens in the UK and I guess oth­er coun­tries where there are peo­ple of African descent. You have big trend com­pa­nies who pay their research­es good mon­ey to trawl the urban areas look­ing to see what we are wear­ing. They vis­it the clubs to catch the music we are lis­ten­ing to and learn our lat­est dances. They con­stant­ly latch onto our lin­go which even­tu­al­ly becomes part of their
vocab­u­lary then they have the cheek to claim it’s street/urban. How they’d sur­vive with­out us I don’t know.

Fufu Oware

Yup, they robbed her idea, passed it as their own. Call them out girl!!!


This kind of theft has been going on for cen­turies. Europeans/whites have stolen our bod­ies, our land, our inven­tions and our style. The only dif­fer­ence now is that we can def­i­nite­ly show proof of that theft. You can’t shame them because they have no shame. But if we stop pur­chas­ing their prod­ucts we can make a much more effec­tive finan­cial state­ment.