African Ankara fabric, dubbed globally as African wax print is considerably one of the most versatile fabrics found around. These prints are produced colorfully, fascinatingly, and even more? They are just so versatile! African Ankara fabrics are almost always usually a beauty to behold. They have invariably become synonymous with West Africa lifestyle, with these print designs coming in various forms, still retaining a certain richness, vibrancy, bold motifs that make them stand out every time. The Ankara print fabric is usually presented in twelve (12) or half/six (6) yards for sale.
Did you know? The African prints didn’t have their origin in Africa.
In 1846, there was a high demand for printed cotton, so Dutch entrepreneur Pieter Fentener Van Vlissingen mechanized the method used to make prints on batiks, a popular cloth worn in Indonesia.
Originally created as batik knockoffs for Indonesians by the Dutch, but West Africa adopted the print that is now widely acclaimed as being African. The crackling effect on the African prints is evident of the wax-resist dyeing technique. His company, Vlisco, introduced the printed textile to Ghana, and the fabric subsequently gained an African identity.
Ankara was first introduced to the market as cheap mass produced imitation of Indonesian batik materials before becoming synonymous with Africa, especially West Africa. They were easily claimed because of the vibrant prints, and largely because African fashion has always been Avant Garde, hence, they perfectly fit right in.
Primarily, Ankara print materials are made through an Indonesian wax-resist dyeing process known as Batik. This however entails a technique to make the fabric resist the dye from getting through to the entire fabric, thereby creating a pattern, which is a desired print. Therefore, because of its easy cotton construction, it is considered versatile, comfortable, and easy to work with, and in turn making it a fabric that can be crafted in the most unconventional styles.
Known as different names, including ‘Kitenge’ in Kenya, ‘Dutch wax’ in Ghana, ‘Kanga prints’ in Tanzania and other East African countries as Ikat, Batik, mud cloth and so on, the print has arguably become a phenomenal in the global community. It has also been able to garner wider recognition from foremost designers. Be that as it may, Ankara‘s versatility, richness in color, durability, uniqueness, and timeless appeal have made it one trend that will transcend centuries and continue being on global fashion discourse.
Ankara has been exported across the world, with Beyoncé being one of those who have been seen in wax prints, making her first solid debut in Reuben Reuel’s Demestiks brand years ago. Solange also adores her African prints. However, top designers have also drawn inspiration for their new collections from the beautiful print. Stella Jean’s designs are largely influenced by the fabric. Top designer Duro Olowu also uses the print in his works, Ghanaian designer Christie Brown, Nigerian designer Lisa Folawiyo are the likes of fashion designing enthusiasts who have incredibly made African print a huge part of their designs.
Stella McCartney crafted her SS18 collection with five solid print designs inspired by this beautiful print. The Dior Cruise 2020 collection is regardless an all shades of wax print. It is true that there are instances of cultural appropriation and there is always a raised eyebrow by Africans when these prints are seen with all African elements infused into a collection trying to tell an African without getting the backstory or allow the stories to be told by Africans themselves. Nevertheless, when inspired to create around that just like one would make do with a crepe de chine or a silk crepe or even a Mulberry silk, then the idea won’t be far fetched from being inspirational.
“The Ankara fabric like religion travelled from Europe into Africa (West Africa to be precise) and made it its home” lead fashion consultant at RTF Company and experienced fashion stylist and brand consultant Rhoda Ebun says. “History says that the Europeans used the fabric to bait West Africans into slave merchandising, this we will never know for sure. But one thing that is a fact is that what was popularly known as ‘Dutch Wax’ or ‘Hollandis’ is known as Ankara in the Nigerian Parlance and more popularly as African prints, because the colors and designs became synonymous to African heritage”, she said.
Also, fashion designer Belinda Compah-Keyeke said in her CNN interview that African print is their first point of contact to their culture as Africans. “When we are born, we are wrapped in a wax print. It is a major part of every African's heritage and every wax print tells a unique African story.”