Everybody’s talking about Africaba handbags, innovative, beautiful creations that are hand-crafted meticulously in Africa with Christian Louboutin’s singular style and flair. Baroque Access finds out all about them
Africaba is a collaboration between legendary shoe and accessory designer Christian Louboutin and his longtime friend, Valérie Schlumberger. The two got together, working with a selection of talented women in Dakar’s La Maison Rose, a beautiful pink house that is also a place of safety and hope for vulnerable, marginalized Senagalese women and their children.
At this pretty place of safety, the women learn the traditional Senagalese skill of embroidery, which of course, is being put to good use to ensure them and their children a happier and brighter future. The exquisite hand embroidery perfected by these women is now being combined with the skill and craftsmanship exercised by Christian Louboutin to create a range of exquisite, unique handbags called Africaba.
Louboutin has not only assisted these 40 women in making their skills profitable, he also contributes 10% of his proceeds to benefit the programs at La Maison Rose through CSAO, the Company of Senegal and West Africa, a shop in Paris founded by his friend Valérie Schlumberger in 1995, to assist these women in making money from their skills and talent. The shop has not only opened up European markets to West African handicrafts, it has also built a strong relationship between the two continents.
The result of the collaboration between Senegalese artists and Louboutin is a range of exquisitely crafted handbags, each one completely unique, created to incorporate the bold West African style. You’ll see vibrant color clashes rubbing shoulders with bold graphic prints on each large paneled tote bag. The hand and shoulder straps are embellished using traditional beading techniques that blend perfectly with Christian Louboutin’s signature detailing. On other parts of the bag one finds familiar Louboutin design features, including a multi-bead embroidered crest and an embroidered logo panel.
The result is a range of extraordinarily beautiful handbags, each a rare treasure that guarantees funds towards a much-needed charitable institution and its inhabitants.
Let’s take a look at the journey each handbag takes, starting in France, where Christian Louboutin creates the handbag sketches. Once the sketch is done and the materials have been chosen, the story continues in Mali, where a community of over 160 women turn recycled plastic into yarn, from which they create vividly colored bracelets. These bracelets are sent to Dakar, where the women who live at La Maison Rose cut them into small beads. The beads that make up the Louboutin crest are then hand-embroidered in India by skilled craftpeople who are responsible for the embroidery done on all Louboutin products. The fabrics used in the handbags are from different West African textiles assembled in Senegal, using traditional Aso Oke weaving techniques. The fabric is then embroidered by women trained at La Maison Rose. The bags then head for Italy, where all Louboutin bags are assembled and the brand’s artisans finish the products with luxury leatherwork and finishings. They then head for Paris, to Christian Louboutin’s home, where recycled beads found at the city’s legendary Marche Aux Puces (fleamarket) are added to the bag to complete them.