Senegalese Multidisciplinary Artist and Creative Mathematician Dumped Wall Street for Fashion Vocation

Diarra Bousso is a fashion designer with a unique edge merging art and Math through the use of algorithms to create designs for her line – DIARRABLU.

With no prior experience in fashion designing, the creative mathematician and multidisciplinary artist left a career of trading on Wall Street to venture into fashion designing.

Bousso, a graduate in mathematics, was born in Dakar, Senegal, but was raised between her motherland, Norway and the United States.

She started her career as a trader in Wall Street as a structured products trader and later asset finance analyst. After two years, she left everything to start two direct-to-consumer fashion brands – Diarrablu and Diarrabel – in her native country, aimed at celebrating her cultural heritage while empowering local artisan communities.

Just to make her dream come through, for three years, she travelled to every Fashion Week she got invited to, tried networking whilst visiting factories in Asia to learn their processes and train her Senegalese artisans.

“It was challenging because I had to invest a lot to travel and self-explore in a field I knew nothing about. But my previous experience on Wall Street definitely helped me to structure everything I saw into a business model and be able to make projections,” she said.

Apparently, her love for mathematics has had a great influence on her prints which are designed based on mathematical equations. “Math was my first love. It’s the only universal language I could connect with every time I moved and was lost with new languages”.

She revealed that the main print for Diarrablu’s SS19 collection, titled “Ndar”, was obtained from the graphing of various equations (linear, quadratic and absolute value) to recreate randomized shapes. The shapes were then filled with colours and the patterns were cut into various shapes and went through geometric transformations such as dilations, rotations and reflections to create a final motif, printed on crepe and chiffon fabrics. The main equations are parabolic of the form y=ax2+bx+c.

To create her Ndar print, Math equations are digitally generated, graphed and hand-painted with touches of oranges, turquoise blues and monochromes, inspired by the island’s vibrant architecture and the resultant abstract pattern is printed on fabrics.

According to her, the algorithmic patterns are abstractions of animal-inspired prints and have names like Gyraf and Zybra. “Our rich African heritage is paramount in our design process as we work with local artisans and seamstresses whose traditional techniques are passed from previous generations”.

Reportedly, Diarra’s paternal grandmother, the late Sokhna Mbow, was a renowned leather, ceramics and metal artisan in the Baol region of Senegal. She is said to have inherited the craftsmanship from her ancestors and passed it down to her children.

Explaining the impact of technology on her designs, Bousso said: “Designing our prints algorithmically allows us to generate hundreds of options, but only printing the ones that our audience responds to via social media. This has allowed us to reduce fabric inventory wastage by 80% and take a closer step towards sustainability”.

Designer Diarra Bousso, pointing to her design credit on a photo of Kendall Jenner in VOGUE USA. Pic Credit: by Tijan Watt

Her designs have been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Elle and the New York Times. Also, they are available for purchase worldwide.

Bousso also works with several concept stores in Abidjan, Nairobi, Brazzaville, Los Angeles, Washington, Miami and Aspen, with the hope of expanding her international wholesale partners.

Bousso said she is working towards sustainability as a big goal with a focus on more circular solutions to textile design.

Her innovative use of equations and algorithms in her beautiful designs has earned her an award as the Designer in Residence at the San Francisco Fashion Incubator.