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Balmain Accessory Sparks Convo On African Design Inspiration

  • January 31, 2024

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Balmain Sarah Diouf African designer Tongoro Olivier Rousteing face gold

Source: Pierre Mouton/ Alain Jocard/ Pierre Mouton / Getty

French fashion house Balmain is under fire for alleged creative theft following their Fall 2024 Men’s collection Paris Fashion Week show Jan. 20. 

Creative director Olivier Rousteing’s latest collection included a gold face accessory that outlines the face’s silhouette. The piece is controversially similar, if not identical, to the “Cairo” jewelry piece Sarah Diouf showcased in her fashion brand Tongoro’s 2019 collection. 

Instagram users questioned the face accessory’s statement-making usage in the Balmain show without crediting Diouf and her brand. Many comments underneath a Jan. 21 post called for answers and accountability from Balmain, Rousteing and model Naomi Campbell. The latter rocked the gold accessory on the runway and closed out the brand’s show.

In addition to the alleged creative theft, some claimed that Balmain’s move exemplified European brands’ exploitation of African aesthetics and creativity.

“Why didn’t you just ask to use and credit the piece from @tongorostudio when pulling accessories?”

“This face jewelry looks exactly like the one created by @tongorostudio and @dioufsarah.”

“Almost an exact copy of @tongorostudio’s 2019 collection. Such disregard for African creativity and ownership.”

“Once again, European brands exploiting the blueprint out of Africa. Talk about endorsing continued oppression & retraumatization of its people via intellectual THEFT!!!!”


Diouf commented on the similarities between her “Cairo” design and Rousteing’s for Balmain in a Jan. 21 Instagram post. 

In addition to a lengthy caption, the designer posted a striking side-by-side of her and Balmain’s work. Diouf’s upload included context surrounding the tribal origins of the gold accessory’s design and notes on the jewelry piece’s success. The self-proclaimed “child of Africa” highlighted that her version of the accessory was previously worn by Alicia Keys, Beyoncé and even Naomi Campbell.


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