Niuku: The Fabric of Culture - Bubblegum Club

Niuku: The Fabric of Culture

Bright, colourful and aesthetically clean are some of the adjectives that can be used to describe the Niuku clothing brand. The Mauritanian unisex clothing label was founded in 2013 by Kadiata Diallo. Constructed in pride, her brand is experimental—its streetwear meets print and Japan meets Africa underscored by androgynous style. While all these elements seem to contrast, Niuku brings them together with incredible cohesion. At the heart of it all, Diallo is passionate about preserving culture through fashion. She utilises traditional techniques and works with local artisans. 

Expanding the tentacles of the brand to other realms, Diallo ventured into interior design with the production of furniture. It was in collaboration with Senegalese designer and art director Sarah Nina Diallo for Atmosphère Décoration Dakar.


Photographed by Hikari Yaya

Bubblegum Club sits down with Diallo to talk about the different cultural influences that dictate the style of the brand 

Lee Nxumalo: What is your earliest memory that you have of being fascinated by fashion?

Kiadata Diallo: I think it was through seeing my mother dressing up. In our Fulani culture, women always get new fabrics, so there are always new colours and types of clothes. The women would tailor them with new designs for events or everyday life. My mother had all these clothes in different colours and I really liked it. I was also so into Fashion TV and I had an insane obsession with Karl Lagerfeld. I was fascinated by his life and his work. He could dream about a garment and replicate it with his own flow.




Photography by Hawo Kane

Lee Nxumalo: Where does the fascination with Japanese street culture that has become a common thread in your collections come from?

Kiadata Diallo: When I was getting out of school and living in Paris, I was around certain buyers and I saw that Japanese customers are the best to get because they order a lot. It was also a dream for me as I was always super into Japan since I was younger and I respect them and their minimalist sense, so I wanted to make the brand known in Japan.

The beginnings of Niuku are rooted in appealing to Japanese customers while adding an African touch. The Japanese love it because everything for them is about details. They are more interested in African culture and textiles because the market is saturated and they are exhausted with what they get. I’m trying my best as an African to show ‘us’ because they know nothing about us. After all, the market doesn’t allow them to see what is going on outside of Asia and Paris. 



Photography by Kadiata Diallo

Lee Nxumalo: How do you determine what you’re going to do for each collection? 

Kadiata Diallo: The only thing that stays the same throughout the process of all my collections is that I’m always researching the various ways of working with print. The designs and choices [I make] are dependent on my emotions or my travels – I travel a lot so I’m always inspired by the places I see, the landscapes and the stories that I hear. Everything that is around me serves as inspiration for each collection. I really focus on what I’m trying to communicate and that can be through the colours and textiles. It’s really based on what’s going on in my life and that’s why sometimes, I don’t release stuff because I don’t feel like doing it. 

Lee Nxumalo: You live in a Muslim country and you’re a practising Muslim. How do you manage the religious ideologies around how women should dress versus the type of clothing you want to make? How do you manage that dynamic?

Kadiata Diallo: Before anything, I am a human being. I’m a creative person so religion doesn’t dictate the way I think about making clothes because I am making clothes for everybody. I am not making clothes for one type of person. I’m a free creative person before I am a religious person because that is a gift that was given to me and that’s what I love to do. 

Lee Nxumalo: Niuku is also in interior design now. What was the motivation behind that move? 

Kadiata Diallo: Honestly, I’ve always been interested in interior design and I was just waiting for the right moment because I just want to focus on the fabric, I don’t have time to be focused on the design process of the furniture so I was just waiting for the right person to work with. I found Sarah Nina, who I love collaborating with and she is amazing. It was nice to see how our minds work together and we were able to do something great together. The collection went crazy, we got so many orders and things were going fast. [At one point], the interiors were getting more orders than my clothes.



Photography by Rimpixel

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