If you’re interested in textiles, a trip to Dakar will feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. You’ll find a dazzling array of fabrics from across the region at huge, never-ending markets such as HLM, high-end boutiques, roadside stalls, and even in your local corner shop.
The choice of fabrics and ease of being able to produce high-quality items by excellent tailors was one of the reasons which inspired Kim Rochette and Megan Carpenter to start Six Bougies, a Dakar based home décor and personal accessories range that fuses West African textiles and patterns with a Western aesthetic. Rebecca Hughes came onboard in 2015, after Megan left Dakar.
Inspired by the light and colours of West Africa, this brand has a fresh, global feel. A couple of their bogolan fabric pillows can easily add elegance and interest to a drab sofa, or a pop of their signature turquoise and coral in the form of a clutch bag livens-up a plain outfit. Their simple, clean, designs let the amazing fabrics speak for themselves.
Recently, I spoke to this lovely, talented and textile-crazy pair to find out more about their company, their design inspirations, and to get some insider tips on buying fabric in Dakar.
Where did the idea for Six Bougies come from?
K: When we first came to Dakar, we were captivated by the selection of fabrics and textiles from all over West Africa, and loved the ability to have clothing and accessories custom-made. We began contemplating the idea of a small business sourcing fabrics and commissioning clothes and accessories from local tailors and in 2013, Six Bougies was born!
What are some of your design inspirations?
R: We’re inspired by the vibrant colours and patterns we see in the city. We love how Senegalese men and women are bold and fearless with their colour choices and put intricate, elaborate detail into custom-made outfits for everyday wear. Six Bougies aims to translate this local inspiration into original, daring clothing, accessory and home décor designs that will appeal to Senegalese and international clients alike.
K: I’ve lived in Senegal for six years and definitely agree with Becky on the colour and personal style so prominent in Dakar. I’m also very inspired by the use of colour and design in unexpected places like on car rapides, pirogues, and in mosques. The tropical climate also serves as inspiration as it lends itself to an indoor/outdoor, laidback style both for clothing and home décor.
What makes Six Bougies unique?
K: We aim for impeccable design and quality, ethically made and at a reasonable price. Our signature aesthetic features unexpected textile, pattern and colour combinations, while maintaining a classic, fresh style.
R: We’re especially committed to using locally made fabrics as often as possible such as indigo, bogolan, woven fabric and wax prints produced in Africa (woodin, uniwax etc.) and are devoted to supporting the local garment industry.
What is your all-time favourite Six Bougies product?
R: I love our pagne tissé clutch. I use mine all the time and it’s great for travelling as it fits my passport and other important documents while still looking stylish.
K: I love wearing a flowy blouse we make with Mauritanian voile fabric; it’s breezy and comfortable, perfect for a hot climate or layered under a cardigan. I’m also obsessed with pillows, and I love all our pillow designs – bogolan, indigo, pagne tissé, and wax alike!
What are the home décor trends you’re loving right now?
R: In the home décor world, mudcloth pillows are currently super popular. I like this trend because they’re neutral but still offer a “global” pop, and can easily be mixed with other colours.
K: Indigo is becoming increasingly popular as well. In general, I love white/neutral walls and bringing in colour and pattern through global, textured home décor accessories like pillows, throws, baskets and decorative items. I see this style a lot on home décor blogs, especially in Californian and Australian homes.
What are the most challenging aspects of running a business?
R: Since Kim and I both have other careers, it can be challenging to balance a second job on top of our other responsibilities.
And the most rewarding?
R: The most rewarding aspect is the design process as well as working with our team of artisans. I love imagining the colour combination possibilities.
K: I agree, building relationships with artisans has been very important. And, of course, seeing the fruit of that collaborative process feels pretty great – especially spotting a Six Bougies blouse on the streets of Dakar! Knowing that people share our design aesthetic, value ethical shopping, and are enjoying Six Bougies products – there’s nothing more rewarding to me.
How does Six Bougies give back to the local community?
R: In a big-picture sense, we are a socially-responsible business providing employment to local tailors and supporting the local garment industry.
K: The name Six Bougies comes from an iconic Vlisco wax fabric representative of female empowerment. Giving back to the local community – particularly women and families – has been a key part of the Six Bougies ethos from day one. As the company grows, we hope to formalise this commitment and brainstorm specific community projects beyond employing local artisans at above-market price. For now, clients can rest assured that they are purchasing ethically-made products that are directly supporting the local workforce.
What’s next for Six Bougies and where do you see the brand going in the next five years?
R: We’re scaling up! With the launch of our new website very soon, we hope to increase our sales overseas as well as create more of an internet presence.
K: We’re also hoping to work with more international wholesale clients to sell at a larger scale, ultimately bringing more jobs to our Senegalese tailors and artisans and hopefully leading to some meaningful community projects. Our co-founder Megan is now based in Los Angeles, and is setting up our international marketing on the West coast of the United States.
And lastly, I can’t let you go without giving Palm Tree Tea readers some insider tip on buying textiles in Dakar!
K: Of course! Sourcing textiles is one of my favourite parts of Six Bougies. Dakar has tons of great places for hunting unique and beautiful textiles; for wax, I recommend HLM, of course, but Sandaga actually has a diverse and great selection as well, particularly of wax from Benin. For indigo and bogolan, I recommend Soumbedioune market.
R: I love ACOMA, it’s a co-op of weavers who came together in the 1980s. They weave all their fabric on site, and have a boutique there as well. They do custom orders and we try to work with them as often as we can. They’re located in Point E, right near the Ali Baba restaurant on the Rue de Ouakam.
Six Bougies is available to buy in Dakar at Keur Marie Ganaar, the arts and crafts cooperative in Mermoz. International orders can be placed through their Etsy shop, and you can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.