This month, AOW connects with Tuulia Makinen Diallo of Tensira. With offices in Paris and Guinea, Tensira offers a unique home décor collection, fusing Nordic design and traditional West African craftsmanship. It’s a collaboration between Tuulia, the company’s designer, and Hamidou Diallo, its manager. Hamidou’s mother was an indigo dyer for more than 40 years in Guinea where Tensira’s workshop is located. She was his source of inspiration for founding the brand. Tuulia was kind enough to sit down with us to share the story of her brand and her tips for staying focused.
Take us through your process for creating a new collection. How do you balance creating fresh, new products while keeping your line classic and ‘on brand’?
Tensira presents two new collections every year. I work anywhere from four to six months ahead of each collection launch. I created each collection around a certain theme. The most recent collection, for example, was called ‘Winter Garden’. It was a collection dedicated to women. I keep a journal with me all the time to collect ideas and inspiration.
You have a strong network here in Paris that allows you to see and understand the market very closely. What advice do you have for brands working on building client connections from their home country that may not have the same local advantage?
I definitely don’t think you need to be in Paris to be inspired and succeed in business. I spent my childhood in a small city in Finland and Hamidou, Tensira’s manager, is from Guinea. In fact, a different background can be a real advantage! Innovation and having "fresh" products are the most important factors in succeeding in this business in my opinion.
Where do you see artisan enterprises falling short?
Well, it’s not easy to be an entrepreneur, in any field. Of course, when you are an artisan entrepreneur you might have more artistic experience than business experience. My advice would be to take the time to acquire those skills before launching – whether through studying or through some type of professional apprenticeship.
Do you have any tips for succeeding as an artisan entrepreneur?
It’s important to stay focused and committed. From the beginning, it is important to have a strong vision and make a business plan of how you see your business 3-5 years from now and to then follow this vision. And of course, have solid communication and beautiful photos.
What marketing channels have been most important in growing your business?
Trade shows have been an important channel for us to grow the Tensira brand. We’ve been doing Maison&Objet since 2011 and NY Now since 2016. You can make valuable encounters during the shows and it also gives you the opportunity to market your brand and products among other professionals in the field.
What's next for Tensira?
We just inaugurated in May 2018 a new workshop in Guinea. It’s beautiful space with more than 3000 square meters dedicated to production – cotton spinning, weaving, dying and sewing.
Our team is also growing. Today we have approximately 60 full-time collaborators. Our goal is to grow the team in Guinea even more. To do that we’re looking to expand the brand further. At this point we have around 200 retailers located in 30 different countries.
This year we are celebrating our 10-year so we have some special things coming. We will be revealing a whole new concept at Maison&Objet in January so stay tuned!
For more info, please visit: www.tensira.com