Mapate Diop is a second generation American, who started the brand DIOP to help others to feel in touch with their heritage through garments and love. In his recent interview with Bold, he talks about all things DIOP and the difference between appreciation of culture and appropriating it.

You can catch Mapate on Bold Boss Live this Thursday at 8 PM ET over on Bold’s Instagram!

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I’m the co-founder of DIOP. We make ready to wear apparel inspired by Africa and its diaspora.

  • What is your favorite part about what you do?

My favorite part of what we do is our connecting with our customers. Our vision includes products that fit your lifestyle and a brand that reflects the world they live in. Based on that connection, they choose to share a lot with us, from sharing photos of themselves wearing our products to telling their stories on our website. It’s a very distinct privilege.

  • In your opinion, what is the difference between appreciating and appropriating culture?

Cultural appropriation is defined as the use or mimicry of artifacts or manners from another culture without acknowledgment, citation or permission. The problem isn’t taking part in cultures that aren’t one’s own. The problem is doing so without any consideration or acknowledgment of the meaning these customs have to the people and cultures to whom they belong. To appreciate other cultures takes engaging in good faith with the communities it belongs to. 

  • How would you advise someone to go about appreciating culture, rather than appropriating it? Is it possible?

Context is always important. It is important to gather an understanding of the culture, then engage with the ongoing conversations with the people most affected.

  • What is something that you have overcome to get to where you are now?

All businesses, or even creative projects have to figure out who they’re for, why someone might be attracted to it, and how to best reach them. Not only can it take a long time, there’s never a definitive answer. When it’s early in the business, especially this is where doubt can creep in. It took about a year between making our first prototype and selling our first product

  • What inspires you to be BOLD?

Once again, it’s our customers. Though they come from different backgrounds with different perspectives, we believe each and every one is on a journey. Because it’s not the clothes but how they make you feel and what you do in them that matters. They’re always pushing us to be the best version of ourselves.

  • What is it like to be connected to your heritage through your brand, while also being a second generation American?

I feel fortunate to be able to express myself through our work but also enable others to do the same, regardless of where they come from. Our vision is products that fit into your lifestyle and a brand that reflects the world you live in. Carrying out that vision begins and ends with a point of view.

  • If you could give advice to someone that is struggling with being connected to their heritage, what would it be? 

Simply start where they are. If it’s reading, then it’s reading. If it’s talking, then it’s talking.  If it’s listening, then it’s listening. You’ll learn to trust your instincts once you’ve developed them. Once you understand what you’re interested in

  • Are you currently working on any new projects our readers would be interested in? 

Since last March, we’ve raised over $100,000 for over 50 different COVID-19 relief efforts and charitable initiatives; everything from food insecurity and housing assistance to justice reform and civil rights. We hope to support several more efforts as we continue.

  • What does the future look like for DIOP?

The future of DIOP is more products that allow people to feel like the most true reflection of themselves, no matter what space they enter. 

One of our earliest customers worked in a predominantly white engineering firm, where everyone wears Hawaiian shirts on Friday. He didn’t feel that was true to his experience and he told us how he would wear his DIOP Top and Air Jordan sneakers to work on Fridays to express himself, even though it was just him doing it.

We want everyone to feel they can create their own lane or feel good about the one they’re in, and we continue to build for those people. 

  • Is there anything else you’d like to add, or think I should have asked? 

In collaboration with Arhaus, a leader in artisan-crafted furniture and home goods, we’re debuting a new line of pillows using our bestselling patterns. They’ll be available in Arhaus showrooms in Chicago and hopefully online soon.