When sourcing wares for our store, we strive to find unique pieces that have a meaningful story - whether it be about the maker, the history or the artisanal practices. Tensira embodies just that - a brand created in 2010 that combines age-old weaving and dyeing techniques with timeless Nordic design and 100% natural materials. Today we share an interview with co-founder Tuulia Making Diallo.
Tensira endeavours to keep traditional African weaving alive and bases their philosophy around ethical and sustainable practices. This amalgamation of time-honoured Guinean weaving and dying with Nordic design creates timeless artisanal wares that look beautiful in every interior. With heavy influences from the rich cultural backgrounds of husband and wife duo - Guinean Hamidou Diallo and Finnish Tuulia Making Diallo. Hamidou’s mother is a great source of inspiration as she cherished and practiced the art of indigo dying for more than 40 years, while Tuulia's father was an architect who influenced her love of design.
Can you share the story behind your business? When did it start? What inspired you to unite the age-old Guinean weaving traditions with Scandinavian design?
We co-founded TENSIRA over 10 years ago with my associate and husband Hamidou Diallo, Tensira’s manager. I am the artistic director for Tensira but my passion for textiles goes back to childhood.
Hamidou and I met in 2003 in Finland, when I lived. Hamidou who is of Guinean origin was studying business and economics at the university in my hometown of Jyvaskyla. We met, fell in love and moved to Paris to continue to pursue our studies.
I have a Master's degree in Textile Merchandising and Management from Paris and began my fashion career at Jean-Paul Gaultier and then moved on to Roger Vivier.
My father was an architect so I was bathed in a Scandinavian design environment, he was a great admirer of Finnish architects and designers such as Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen.
Hamidou comes from an artisanal background as his mother was a renowned indigo dyer in Guinea. Hamidou always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur and promote Guinean artistry.
Together we had a fusion of ideas proposing contemporary home linen and fashion accessories made by amazing artisans in Guinea and Tensira was born as yearly as 2006 and officially launched in late 2009, early 2010.
"Excluded from globalization, African crafts risk to disappear, it’s important to propose a market for this unique know-how which as been passed on from generation to generation."
Is there a significance behind the colour palette?
All our dyes are 100% hand-developed and hand-dyed with natural indigo by our wonderful team at our workshop in Guinea. Our colors are unique, we even have our own nuancier (color chart) .
We create two collections a year around a theme, there is always something new brought to each collection. When I create a collection my inspiration starts with colors.
Images by Tensira
Why is it important for you to celebrate the traditional Guinean craftsmanship? And can you share with us the dyeing and weaving process that your artisans undertake?
Guineans are the champions in hand-weaving and all of our fabrics are entirely handmade and hand-woven on traditional looms. We use the centuries-old method of tie&dye where each dot is separately attached and detached one-by-one with the help of a needle and a thread. One meter of tie&dye fabric contains up to 3600 dots that are attached and detached individually. A true masterpiece!
We know that you support local artisans and work with primarily women, we’d love to know how you create a good working environment for your stand employ Fair Trade practices?
We created Tensira to promote Guinean handcrafts and to create jobs here in Guinea. Today we have over 100 artisans working full time at the workshop, the majority of our team is women.
Our core value is to promote sustainable production, respect for environment and people as well as guarantee a safe and fair work environment for all our collaborators.