The Origins of African Fabric

Prints, patterns, color. These are some of the things that come to mind when you think Fashion in Africa. Over the years, we have seen the evolution of Fashion in Africa. From the Damask to dry lace, from Adire- Eleso to Kente, each material being worn in a specific way tells a story. A story of pride, tradition and more importantly deeply rooted history.

batik making

According to history, clothes have not always been worn in Africa. If you let the history books tell you all you know, they might even say the first sighting of clothes in Africa dates back to 2000 B.C.E. The accuracy of this report we will never know but we can tell you is the origin of the Ankara cloth. The Ankara cloth generally made popular by countries in West Africa such as Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal was not originally from any of the countries. The Ankara cloth was created in Indonesia. For as long as they can remember, the Indonesian locals have made Batik. Slaves and mercenaries recruited from West Africa to be part of the Indonesian army took a liking to Batik and returned to West Africa with the cloth. The different versions made in Indonesia and Europe were not wildly accepted by the people and with this rejection, the manufacturers then turned to West Africa where market women had taken a liking to the materials and even made better patterns of the Cloth. With this discovery came the birth of Ankara. It was adopted and made popular by West Africa and based on this popularity, we are now able to look at Runways all over the world and see the inspiration for Ankara from Burberry, L.A.M.B, Marni to name a few. We are able to see the inspiration of the Ankara cloth everywhere. Women all over West Africa today wear Ankara casually. They are worn at weddings to identify friends of the bride and groom, at birthdays to identify family and friends of the celebrant and even at funerals to celebrate the departed.


As African Fashion Week Chicago approaches, within the next four weeks, come with us on a journey. We want to inform you about some designers you may or may not have heard of, the different ways in which African fashion has evolved and finally to show you that while we pride ourselves in the different materials, prints and patterns we wear, African designers have come a long way and will give some of your ‘favs’ a run for their money.


African Fashion Week Chicago is coming September 24-26th 2015.

What will you be wearing?