Fashion:AFRICAN PRINTS, ITS BEAUTY AND ORIGINALITY
African wax prints, also known as Ankara and Dutch wax prints, are omnipresent and common materials for clothing in Africa, especially West Africa. They are industrially produced, colorful cotton cloths with batik-inspired printing. One feature of these materials is the lack of difference in the color intensity of the front and back sides. The wax fabric can be sorted into categories of quality due to the processes of manufacturing.
Normally, the fabrics are sold in 12 yards (11 m) as “full piece” or 6 yards (5.5 m) as “half piece”. The colors comply with the local preferences of the customers. Mainly clothing for celebrations is made out of these.
The wax prints are part of a nonverbal way of communication among African women, and hereby they carry their message out into the world. Some wax prints can be named after personalities, cities, building, sayings or occasions. The producer, name of the product and registration number of the design is printed on the selvage, protecting the design and allowing reading the quality of the fabric. The wax fabrics constitute capital goods for African women. Therefore, they are collected depending on the financial possibilities.
In Sub-Saharan Africa these textiles have an annual sales volume of 2.1 billion yards, with an average production cost of $2.6 billion and retail value of $4 billion.
Ghana has an annual consumption of textiles about 130 million yards (120 million metres). The three largest local manufacturers ATL, GTP and Printex produce 30 million yards. 100 million yards come from cheap and smuggled Asian imports.
The Vlisco Group, with its brands Vlisco, Uniwax, Woodin and GTP, produced 58.8 million yards (53.8 million meters) of fabric in 2011. The net sales were €225 million, or $291.65 million. In 2014 all of its 70 million yards of fabric (about 64 million meters) are produced in the Netherlands. In 2014 Vlisco made a turnover of €300 million.
The process to make wax print is originally influenced by batik, an Indonesian (Javanese) method of dyeing cloth by using wax-resist techniques. For batik, wax is melted and then patterned across the blank cloth. From there, the cloth is soaked in dye, which is prevented from covering the entire cloth by the wax. If additional colors are required, the wax-and-soak process is repeated with new patterns.
During the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, Dutch merchants and administrators became familiar with the batik technique. Thanks to this contact, the owners of textile factories in the Netherlands, such as Jean Baptiste Theodore Prévinaire and Pieter Fentener van Vlissingen, received examples of batik textiles by the 1850s if not before, and started developing machine printing processes which could imitate batik. They hoped that these much cheaper machine-made imitations could outcompete the original batiks in the Indonesian market, effecting the look of batik without all the labor-intensive work required to make the real thing.
Prévinaire’s attempt, part of a broader movement of industrial textile innovation in Haarlem, was the most successful. By 1854 he had modified a Perrotine, the mechanical block-printing machine invented in 1834 by Louis-Jérôme Perrot, to instead apply a resin to both sides of the cloth. This mechanically applied resin took the place of the wax in the batik process.
Another method, used by several factories including Prévinaire’s:18,20 and van Vlissingen’s, used the roller printing technology invented in Scotland in the 1780s.
Unfortunately for the Dutch, these imitation wax-resist fabrics did not successfully penetrate the batik market. Among other obstacles, the imitations lacked the distinctive wax smell of the batik fabric.
Starting in the 1880s,they did, however, experience a strong reception in West Africa when Dutch and Scottish trading vessels began introducing the fabrics in those ports. Initial demand may have been driven by the taste for batik developed by the Belanda Hitam, West Africans recruited between 1831 and 1872 from the Dutch Gold Coast to serve in the Dutch colonializing army in Indonesia. Many members of the Belanda Hitam retired to Elmina, in modern Ghana, where they may have provided an early market for Dutch imitation batik.
The success of the trade in West Africa prompted other manufacturers, including Scottish, English, and Swiss manufacturers, to enter the market.
The Dutch wax prints quickly integrated themselves into African apparel, sometimes under names such as “Veritable Dutch Hollandais,” and “Wax Hollandais”. Women used the fabrics as a method of communication and expression, with certain patterns being used as a shared language, with widely understood meanings. Many patterns began receiving catchy names. Over time, the prints became more African-inspired, and African-owned by the mid-twentieth century. They also began to be used as formal wear by leaders, diplomats, and the wealthy population.
Although the African Print has a Dutch origin, its design portrays African Culture and rich Heritage. Its designs are soley African motifs and it was designed bearing Africans in mind. Do not be coy to appear in an African Print because its originality is second to none.