The birth of DJEEG’N- My clothing line

DJEEG'N

Hey babes, this is a long overdue post about the fashion brand I created in 2013 called DJEEG’N. Enjoy!

Behind the scenes of the brand:

I first registered the brand in 2005 after I realized that I needed something significant and powerful in my life. I recall, always altering my clothes since I was very young and all my friends were complimenting me on it and on my every day-to-day styles and outfits. I was unapologetically me with my outfits, if it worked for me, It worked! I used to alter, by hand, the lengths of all my pants and sleeves. Everything was always too short for the Senegalese features that I have; long legs, long arms, cinched waist and bust-y. It may sound nice but it is actually very hard for women like me to find jackets, button-up shirts and dresses in which my generous breast can fit without looking too tight on top and boxy around the waist and arms, seriously! Plunging necklines and no bra tops are soooo not for me!

Aissata BaSo in 2005, while feeling over my job and looking something that I really wanted to do, I started thinking about making my own clothes. My mother being a seamstress for as long as I can remember, and selling her clothes and home goods to neighbors also altering for free everyone’s clothes was such an inspiration. I also wanted to make a difference, for my family, for women, for my inherited root country, Senegal, for me, and… for my children to be.

While I had the inspiration, I did not know where and how to start other than registering the brand. I did not go to a fashion school, I rather studied business management and marketing in France. So I did a SWOT analysis on myself, wrote down my strengths and weaknesses first, then looked at my opportunities and threats. I really did not know how, where and with what I was going to start my line. I just knew, if I believed in it strong enough, I could materialize it; if others have done it, there was no reason why I could not succeed at it, despite, the many people around me in France who thought that I was not objective. (by the way, if you want me to do something…just tell me that I can’t do it, lol) Yea, how could a young woman like me with no experience in fashion school and no money could take on such an adventure? they used to say. Well… thanks for the vote of confidence, I listened to the nay-sayers yet I kept on moving. I flew to America for 6 months to learn English and broaden my mind, I ended up staying a few years to further my education in Fashion and marketing in the fashion business and finally got internships and jobs in the fashion industry.

During one of my visit in Paris, I had the honor to continue working with Balenciaga (which I first started working with in New York) And, you can not imaging how I felt when, after 10 days only, the head of international merchandising offered me a job in the company. I had just graduated from my New York school. As overwhelmed with joy as I was, I thought it was not the right path for me. I must admit…what?…I was about to say “no” to Balenciaga, the luxury house of fashion!!!!!! It was a terrifying thought, but, I knew what I wanted and I wanted to work in a started up to learn more from them and be able to work closely with all departments of a fashion business and gain as much experience as I could before starting my own. Balenciaga was offering me a wonderful opportunity, which was amazingly unbelievable but at the stage and age I was, it would have taken me much longer to start my own company. All I wanted, was something that would take me faster to my business goal. So I came back to America and find jobs with smaller and start-up companies and was able to see how were operated the different departments of a small fashion house. The best experience I got was with my head of production while working with Daryl K. It saved me from making huge and costly mistakes after I started Djeeg’n. After moving on from Daryl K, I worked for another 2 start-ups while back onto the school ‘s benches for yet another diploma.

A day of May 2012,  I sat down for a tea with a friend designer who came by to visit me and while talking we realized we wanted the same thing. She was looking into designing for a company and I was looking to hire a designer to focus on the collections with my vision while I was working on the business side of the company. I did not have a lot of money compare to many of the fashion start-ups out there and I did not know many people but she was on board and it seemed to be exactly what she needed professionally and financially. We were so excited and then, I knew, the time has come. We set a start-up date for March 2013 so we could be ready to show the first Djeeg’n collection during September fashion week for spring/ summer 2014. Oh my… this was so happening and ever since, my life was consumed by making this new venture a success. Sleeping, going out, dating, everything else become the last thing in my mind.

March 2013 finally arrived. Although my new soon-to-be employee decided not to join the business after all, and at the very last-minute… (great!), I kept going. I told myself, I have been working on the ground work and setting up the start-up for the past year almost, I have been dreaming about this since 2005, I could not stop. I was going to take the designing all on my own and subcontract for pattern making and production. This was my company after all, my dream, how could I let one person’s unstable decision refrain me for reaching my goal. I could not! It was against the very essence of my brand: SELF-CONFIDENCE, and its tagline “if She knows what She wants, She can get it”. She = DJEEG’N, which means woman, it’s for all women around the world, we are strong, our words have power of prediction, all we have to do is find the confidence inside yourselves to make things happen.

And, so I started.

My first line is exclusively sold on the Djeeg’n website, I never show it to the store. I was latter approached by stores who were interested in buying into it. My second collection, though, for this winter 2014-15 was introduced to stores in February 2014 and it was an instant success with the boutiques. I was so afraid because of all the people who were saying that buyers don’t buy from new designers’ first, second and sometimes third collections. I was so afraid that all my investment would be in vain, but It was not. I did really good business on pre-orders and continue doing good business with my extra inventory on season. After we closed the selling season for pre-orders, I ordered the fabrics, produced the garments and successfully delivered every store on time to kick the fall/ winter season 6 months later.  Many of my stores have already sold out and I got new orders from new stores added to many online orders from Djeeg’ns in the US, UK, France, Belgium…to name a few. The road was and still is full of ambushes but I won’t let go. Djeeg’n is here to stay, just watch me!

Djeeg'n Spring summer 2014 Djeeg'n spring summer 2014The brand:

Djeeg’n, is a fashion brand that celebrates women and promote self-confidence. Because, we believe if we, as women, know what we want, we can get it. Djeeg’n makes women happy, look fabulous and feel confident.

DJEEG’N celebrates what it is to be a woman. I want the brand to serve as a constant reminder for every woman to be carefully conscious of her surroundings and let her natural talents and ability to shine, overcome though situations, make good things happen and remain strong. I want for women to become unified and socially conscious in an effort to earn back respect from others, have self- respect and self-love. We must grow together, not compete against one another.

Furthermore, in a society, where, people want to belong to groups because of societal, cultural and ethnic pressure, DJEEG’N reminds each woman that she can be whomever she wants because she already is part of the most important group of her lifetime being a “woman” and that is the only group she needs to know if she is part of. Everything else is life adornment.

Let me be clear, I am not dismissing anyone needs to belong or fit in, I get it, the struggle and pressure is real; in France, I am African (Senegalese), in Senegal they call me toubab (=stranger usually white/french), In America it is divided, some people will consider me as French while others African. I always felt that I have to do more to fit in, one way or the other. Not anymore!!!! That is why I created DJEEG’N using sounds of the three languages I speak. DJ is for French, EE is for English, G’N is for Fulani (peulh). I know now I don’t have to fit in, I can be “me” outside the box, with my 3 born-into and acquired cultures and still be a fabulous happy and confident djeeg’n. In fact, I am fabulous just as I am and more confident that I have ever been. You can call me citizen of the world!

The elements of my clothing line can be resumed into

  • Prints: Patterns including a range of prints made of Senegalese tie-dye techniques
  • Colors: daring, vibrant and bold for a strong emotional impact
  • Silhouettes: figure flattering to compliment every woman’s body and natural curves
  • Fabrics: a variety of cottons, silks, wools, linens and man-made Eco-friendly fabrics

The future:

I want to develop the direct to consumer channel. Lower my cost, therefore my retail price, take more risk which is not so easy when selling to stores, optimize all communication and sell directly to my djeeg’ns.

I want to bring the company to a point I will, in the majority of my designs, use the Senegalese tie dyed techniques (tioup) which are based on the regular damask cotton fabric. Tioup are in Senegal, the finest type of fabric used for chic and formal outfits. Unlike the so-called “African print” that we love and that is so easily available around the world but has absolutely no origin in Africa. Bazin and tioup fabrics are regarded as a worthy type of fabric that one can wear for formal events, galas, fashion shows, weddings, baby showers, visit to the in-laws… at least in Senegal and I love that. I want to share that sophistication with the rest of the world. More importantly, The delicate technique of tie dye is 100% made from the bare hands of beautiful and deserving Senegalese djeeg’ns. When I use these fabrics, I know I am being part of something bigger. Now, this will call for a lot of traveling, going back and forth to Senegal to source for fabric and perfect designs to hand tie & dye. I am very excited. And it is tarting right now, yayyy! You know it, I am off to the beautiful land of Teranga (=Hospitality)…..SENEGAL!!!! Yay!

But wait….you must know, there is a lot more to come, more collaborations, more designs, social responsibility (my ultimate goal of helping women and children in a more significant way) I will certainly keep you posted.

Until next, follow DJEEG’N on: Instagram @djeegn    Facebook/ DJEEG’N    Twitter @djeegn

Aissata Ba creative director and owner of DJEEG'N

DJEEG’N \Jee-gan\ is inspired by the Wolof term “Djiguën” meaning woman.

Be happy, look fabulous, feel confident!

Love, Aïssata.

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