Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain, is accused of plagiarism. Sarah Diouf, founder of Senegalese brand Tongoro, claimed Balmain's accessories shown at its FW24 men's fashion show in Paris bore a resemblance to her designs. Dominika, the owner of London-based brand Selfhood Official, also accused Balmain of plagiarism.
On Tongoro Studio's Instagram account, the founder wrote: "In May 2019, we presented our jewellery line, focusing on the 'Cairo' facial jewellery. Inspired by the make-up of the men of the Woodabe tribe. The face jewellery was first shown at the fashion show of our 'Tongoro Tribe' collection in Dakar, as a tribute to African nomadic communities. Immediately after the show, our face jewellery was worn by model Naomi Campbell and singer Alicia Keys.
"The piece quickly became a success and an essential element of the Tongoro line. The jewellery was also styled by Zerina Akers for Beyoncé's "Spirit" video. The visible resemblance of the piece presented by Olivier Rousteing in his Balmain autumn-winter 2024/2025 collection to ours is a difficult and painful occurrence, once again casting doubt on the true appreciation Western brands claim to have for African creativity. They claim to be "inspired" by it. But where is the line."
Luxury brands' interpretation of traditional costume often accused of cultural appropriation and plagiarism
Balmain has also been accused of taking strong inspiration from the royal durag of London brand Selfhood Official. "This piece is very unique to us. We are very proud of it, especially because we have never seen anyone else do it this way, which is to make a durag out of a hard material like plastic or metal," the owner wrote.
"That's why Balmain's new collection hurts us. Yes, it may not be exactly the same, but the idea and chosen material is. It doesn't matter whether the collar is tied at the back, front or side. This idea has never been executed by anyone else before. That is why it is so disturbing." The message continued: "Whenever we are inspired by someone, we always thank them. Somehow that never seems to work the other way around."
Balmain has so far not responded to the controversy.