African Fabrics Gone Mainstream: Exploring the Meaning and Culture of African Textiles


What comes to mind when you think about African fashion? Of course, fashion trends and styles vary throughout the diverse continent. Still, I bet that bright fabrics and colorful patterns are probably what you think about when you think of African fashion. African print and textiles, which hold rich cultural and historical meaning, have quickly risen as a global fashion staple.


The History of African Fabrics and Textiles

There are many names for African fabrics. Some refer to them as tribal prints or simply African prints, but the best-known and most popular fabric is African wax prints, otherwise known as Ankara or Kitenge. The origin of African wax prints dates back to the mid-1800s when West African countries began trading for fabric with a Dutch company.

African wax prints get its name from the process of how it’s made. Designs are imprinted onto both sides of the cloth using wax resins and dyes. This technique originated in Indonesia as batik, which is the wax resistant process of using a small etching tool filled with hot wax to create intricate designs on cloth.

Today, the phrase “African wax prints” has become a catch-all term for all African textiles. But the reality is, Africa has a long textile history that derives from all around the continent to be celebrated.


African Cloths in Mainstream Fashion

African fabrics have become a popular choice of dress for African Americans looking to display their pride. For those who are not connected to the African Diaspora, African fabrics are still attractive fashion statements. Global designers have integrated African patterns into their designs, and even celebrities have been spotted in the bright fabrics. As the world embraces the creativity and innovations of Africa, it’s important to remember the meaning and culture behind the fabrics.

Want to explore our collection of Ankara fabrics? You can here!

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