Maths teacher Diarra Bousso Gueye was grading a set of algebra papers when she had a Eureka moment. Gueye, who had long harbored fashion aspirations from her childhood when she made clothes for her dolls, pondered what if she took the equations she taught to create drawings and prints for clothing?
After that classroom moment, her brand Diarrablu started using math concepts such as geometric transformations and quadratic transformations to create multiple prints in bold colors.
“My work is fully focused on the use of mathematics for the creative process,” she told CNN.
The Joal print is named after an iconic coastal town in Senegal called Joal Fadiouth. One of her prints (pictured above) — the Joal print — was inspired by a class on exponential and quadratic functions, she says. According to Gueye, the seashell shapes were digitally-generated and graphed to create clam seashell shapes on swimsuits, kimonos, and dresses.
Math equations were digitally generated and graphed to create the seashell shapes on the Joal print, Gueye says.
“I am proud to call myself a creative mathematician and I spend my day doing or teaching math. As a result, all my creations have this DNA,” she said.
Gueye launched the clothing label in 2015 and started using maths equations in her designs a few years later. She currently shuttlesbetween the US, where she teaches maths in a Silicon Valley high school and Senegal, West Africa, where her clothes are made.
Her place of birth features heavily in her work and one of her current collections, the Joal print, is inspired by a Senegalese coastal town.
“I developed the Joal print for SS20 which is the result of graphing essential seashells instead of drawing them, to recreate the ecosystem of Joal Fadiouth, an iconic coastal town in Senegal, ” she said.
When she was sixteen she moved to Norway to finish high school. Upon graduation, she moved to the US where she studied Maths, Economics, and Statistics.
She later got a job on Wall Street working first at an investment bank, then later on the trading floor. But she never forgot her first love — fashion and eventually started a blog where she documented fashion inspiration on the streets of New York.
Creative wave of African designers
In 2013, Gueye eventually left Wall Street and registered her fashion brand. She started organizing fashion weeks and events in countries including the US and Senegal before embarking on a Master’s in Mathematics at Stanford University.
Gueye is part of a creative wave of designers who are innovating African fashion, an industry that is expanding rapidly. According to a 2015 report by Euromonitor, Sub-saharan Africa’s apparel and footwear market is reportedly worth $31 billion.
Labels such as Nigeria’s Maki Oh — worn by Beyonce — and South Africa’s Mantsho are establishing themselves as international brands beyond the continent. This Kenyan artist is illustrating African women like you have never seen before.
Like many of these fashion brands, Gueye’s growth in Africa has been exponential. In coming years, she says she wants more collaborations between designers on the continent.”I am happy that African designers are taking stronger ownership of the narrative and I encourage us to keep writing our own stories and create our own validation.”