Senegal's fashion futurist

Selly Raby Kane, a central figure in Dakar's new creative wave, will bring her avant-garde fashion sensibility to the stage at Design Indaba Conference 2015.

Part of the event

“It’s super important for people like us to express ourselves and to be able to live off of that expression,” says Senegalese fashion designer Selly Raby Kane. The launch of her Alien Cartoon 2014 collection turned Dakar’s old railway station into a futuristic fantasy that included a giant octopus and models in zany, three-dimensional dresses and neon-coloured spacesuits.

The “people like us” that Kane talks about are the members of Senegal’s new creative class, also represented in Stocktown’s Afripedia, Senegal video by photographer Omar Victor Diop, beatmaker Fanny from Ivory Coast and dancer Khoudia Roodia. Together, they send a clear message that creatives in Africa have just as much licence to pick and choose cultural influences from Bogolan mud cloth to Grace Jones and the Dutch Masters to David Lynch.

In many senses, Kane is the poster child for this new wave of talent, and she occupies a galvanising position in Les Petites Pierres, a collective of artists who are bringing new life to Dakar with regular music performances, street festivals and art events. “This is our world, this is our alternative and this is us giving the image that needs to be seen of our country!” she proclaims.

Born and raised in the Senegalese capital, Kane studied fashion at Mod’Spé Paris and lived in the US before returning to Africa. She established her label in Dakar and has released five collections to date, including Be Street (2012) – which used unusual materials such as PVC and fake hair – and the Iconic capsule collection (2013), where her bold angular cutouts and moulded forms came into their own.

Kane’s work is a foil to the West's current expectations of African fashion, which has focussed on pattern and wax print. Other African creatives also breaking the mould that will be on stage at Design Indaba Conference 2015 to talk about it are Nairobi-based “artisanal architecture” firm Studio Propolis and South African fashion designer Sindiso Khumalo.


Book for Design Indaba Conference 2015, which takes place from 25 to 27 February 2015.

Watch the Talk with Selly Raby Kane