Sometimes, we are inexplicably drawn to a location. It could be a city, a country, or a specific landscape. We feel an instant connection that we cannot readily put into words. Experiencing that irresistible sense of belonging may be a sign that we’ve found our soul place — a place that appeals beyond our five senses and touches something deeper. A place that speaks words of comfort to our soul.
Mont Loura, Fouta-Djalon region, Guinea. Co-founder Hamidou Diallo is orginally from this part of Guinea. The Tensira village is right underneath this mountain and is where the indigo dye and tie-dye attaches are created.
That profound connection to a country that isn’t your own by birth is a feeling that Tuulia Makinen-Diallo, the co-founder and artistic director of home linen brand Tensira, knows very well. Traveling to Guinea, her husband Hamidou’s motherland, to connect with his roots in the country’s highlands, she found herself falling in love with the place itself, and much more. “It is the people... it is the love you receive and the love you give,” she explains in her usual sprightly tone, as she muses on the reasons why the West African country fills her heart with such joy every single time. For the Finnish native, getting immersed in the local culture and customs through her Guinean family had a momentous effect: it led her to fully delve into her passion for textiles, moved by the exceptional artistry and rich traditions being kept alive by artisans in the Fula community, among whom Hamidou’s mother, Aïssatou Diallo.
Hamidou's mother, Aïssatou Diallo.
For decades, Aïssatou practiced the centuries-old art of indigo dyeing for which her ancestral village of Tensira is renowned for — an intricate process layered with significance and symbolism that only women can carry out. Using the natural dye obtained from the tiny leaves of the indigo plant like the generations that came before her, she would create stunning patterns in vivid shades of blue that would adorn the long dresses traditionally donned for special occasions and celebrations. It is her and her masterful creations that inspired Hamidou and Tuulia to start a home textile brand proudly rooted in Guinean tradition. With one foot in West Africa and the other in Paris, where they reside, the couple officially launched Tensira in 2009.
At home, you have the people you love the most, so it’s so important to have the most beautiful products, to be comfortable and happy. I think that a happy home makes happy people.
Hamidou’s mother played a pivotal role in setting up the business, building partnerships with skilled artisans and women’s cooperatives around the region. She put together a production chain that is truly ‘100% handmade in Guinea’, from spinning the cotton harvested in West Africa, to weaving the fabrics the traditional way and crafting the final pieces. “We’re so lucky to work with the best professionals,” says Tuulia of the hundred or so collaborators now employed by the brand, “and it’s been going on for ten years!”
Over a hundred artisans specializing in cutting, dyeing, sewing, and quality control are currently employed full-time in Tensira's freshly renovated, solar-powered workshop near Conakry, Guinea.
Although Aïssatou passed five years after the launch of the brand, her legacy and that of the ancestors before her, lives on through every Tensira product. Looking closely at every detail that was crafted by hand, appreciating the workmanship behind the dyes, one can certainly feel a quality that comes from creating with care, attention to detail, and pride, along with a strong sense of cultural heritage.
More than the incredible artistry, it is Hamidou and Tuulia’s profound connection with Guinea, and the love of a son for his mother, that the brand celebrates with each new collection. By creating sustainable employment opportunities and offering fair wages to the artisans they work with, it is also clear that Tensira serves a higher purpose — to give back to the country, the community, and the family.
“At home, you have the people you love the most, so it’s so important to have the most beautiful products, to be comfortable and happy. I think that a happy home makes happy people.” This sentiment of home as a place that provides unconditional love, comfort, and happiness perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Tensira. Each of their products brings a little bit more warmth to everyday life.
Kapok bedroll and cushions featured at the Tensira store in Place des Vosges, Paris.