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Senegalese eye elegance for Eid at half the price

By Soulé DIA - AFP
Senegal Seynabou Sarr launched her second-hand boutique in 2018.  By CARMEN ABD ALI (AFP)
SUN, 16 JUN 2024 LISTEN
Seynabou Sarr launched her second-hand boutique in 2018. By CARMEN ABD ALI (AFP)

In a second-hand shop in the suburbs of Senegal's capital, Seynabou Sarr is inundated with orders days before West Africa's largest Muslim festival of Tabaski.

Sarr, 30, constantly answers calls while showing customers second-hand boubous -- a traditional robe worn by both men and women at religious or ceremonial occasions.

Tabaski -- marked by most Senegalese on Monday -- is celebrated with great pomp but can put families under pressure over the need to spend on food and new clothes.

Wearing the same outfit two years running is frowned upon.

"People used to be ashamed to wear second-hand clothes for fear of being mocked or denigrated," Sarr, who is also known as Nabou, said.

For Tabaski customers want boubous made from luxury fabrics which can be very expensive.  By CARMEN ABD ALI (AFP) For Tabaski customers want boubous made from luxury fabrics which can be very expensive. By CARMEN ABD ALI (AFP)

"But increasingly, many are becoming aware of their benefits."

For Tabaski -- the West African name for Eid -- customers want boubous made from luxury fabrics, adorned with pearls and embroidery -- but not with a luxury price tag.

When new, some boubous can cost up to 250,000 CFA francs ($405), a small fortune in a country where the median salary is 54,000 CFA francs ($88) a month.

But at the boutique, it is possible to find one for as little as 90,000 CFA francs or less.

Second-hand success

Nabou launched her business online in 2018 before opening the shop in 2022. She now has more than 80,000 followers on TikTok.

Abdou Fall has this year opted for a second-hand tunic -- an elegant three-piece with beautiful embroidery around the neck.

He bought it for 60,000 CFA francs but it would have cost 130,000 CFA francs new.

"It wasn't in my plans to buy a boubou this year as I already had a lot to do with other expenses," he said.

In Senegal, the success of second-hand often has less to do with environmental concerns and more to do with financial motives.  By CARMEN ABD ALI (AFP) In Senegal, the success of second-hand often has less to do with environmental concerns and more to do with financial motives. By CARMEN ABD ALI (AFP)

"But the price was so affordable that I thought I'll not deprive myself."

Another customer Matar Sarr says that with a little bit of money, "you can look as good as everyone else".

"Who can tell that it is not new? Nobody," Sarr said.

In Senegal, the success of second-hand often has less to do with environmental concerns and more to do with financial motives.

Khady Djiba is looking for a wedding dress for her sister.

She examines the quality of the fabrics, runs her hand over the seams, lingers over the beading and finally choses a tunic with a long train adorned with glittering pearls.

New, the dress would be out of reach, but for 75,000 CFA francs, Djiba can buy it from Nabou.

It has a few flaws but with a couple of alterations and dry-cleaning, it will be as good as new.

"It's a good deal," she said smiling.

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