Story Of African Wax Prints

A (super) short history of wax prints in Africa

“Wax print fabrics actually originated in Indonesia and were exported to the Gold Coast and then spread over West Africa into Central Africa. They became extremely popular and over time the Africans customized and personalized their own designs. Today, African wax print fabrics are primarily made in Ghana or Mali, and they have a strong cultural, social and economic importance.”

African Women in everyday cloths

These prints may seem dramatic to Europeon & American eyes, but the vibrant colors and patterns are everyday fair for many people in West African countries. For the women picture here, all in a day’s work!

SPRING 2012 READY-TO-WEAR Burberry Prorsum | African Prints

The trend toward wax prints on the runway has been brewing for several seasons, with designers of all backgrounds using the vibrant prints in their collections. Still, it was the Burberry S/S 2012 collection that gave the trend the office “industry” stamp of approval.

Juanjo Oliva S/S 2010

Spanish designer Juanjo Oliva was ahead of the curve for the wax print trend. He studied design at IADE in Madrid and got his professional start as an illustrator for companies like Zara. Oliva launched his first collection in 2004 and has since shown every season at Madrid fashion week.



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Me wearing layered wax print clothes worn as floor length skirt.

I’ve used my styling perspective to glam this look up a bit, but these cloths inparticular are actually the humble variety that women and men  in the south of Nigeria wear as an equivalent to loungewear. You won’t see it much in the city, but those that live in provincial areas often wear a an unsewn square of wax cloth with a casual top (like a t-shirt) around town.

My mother used to carry me in a wax print wrap like this

This woman appears to be using her wax print cloth primarily for style, as it’s layered over what looks like a jersey fabric wrap. In my family the women traditionally carried their babies in cloth wraps, but the babies were situated on their backs, not in the front. Believe it or not, I have memories of being on my mom’s back while she’s standing on the stove cooking for the family.

Leila Adu. Photo by Leon Dale

Leila grew up in New Zealand, but has Ghanaian lineage via her father. During our shoot we chatted about how this was her first foray into exploring that side of her heritage through style

Political statements in wax print

Modern wax prints have more than just abstract designs. Like the one show here, they might have political or social statements embeded in them. Some even have photos included in the design.

FAIR+TRUE Fair Trade African Print Bustier Dress

Wax print products are prime subjects for companies that peddle “fair trade” wares. The idea is that the people who make the items, in developing countries, are paid well – rather than exploiting the vast differences in economic power between the producers and consumers of the item.

Stella Jean wax prints collection 2012

Growing up in a Nigerian-American household I always had access to plenty of wax print cloth and sewn outfits, but I generally reserved these for special occasion where other West African families were gathered. As I got older and started developing my personal style, however, I began experiementing with combining the fabrics with jeans, tees, and other run-of-the-mill American fashions.

I love how Stella Jean puts the clothes in context for customers without watering down the style.

wax-resist-dyed on cotton cloth

“Wax prints were produced across Europe and exported to Africa, with African Customers driving the trade. Since the 1960s factories have been established in Ghana and other African countries from Senegal to the Congo. Today, all of the European factories have closed down, except Vlisco in the Netherlands. The Manchester-based factory ABC (Arthur Brunnschweiler and Company) transferred its UK production recently to a sister company in Ghana. However ABC designers in Manchester continue to create patterns for the African wax print factories and visit local markets to gain inspiration and market feedback.”

via britishmuseum.org

Gold print fabric

“When a design in metallic ink is rolled over the top of a printed or solid colored fabric a GOLD PRINT is the result. Sometimes the gold design is tied in with the images or design on the cloth, sometimes not.”

via africanfabriclady.com

Vogue China

Here we see a wax-like print layered with two other prints. The trend arose during a more general trend toward heavy use of graphic prints and other “ethnic” textiles.

women in Central African Republic

Not all of the prints show here are wax prints, but they demonstrate well the variety of color and pattern that’s common to the aesthetic in this part of the world.

Selfridges Nigerian Fashion Christmas Window

“Selfridges just launched a pop-up store that presents some of the top Nigerian designers. The pop-up store is organized by Ndani, a Nigerian Fashion Project to showcase the best of Lagos Fashion and Design Week.

5 top designers are presenting their clothes and accessories: Jewel by Lisa, Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, Eki Orleans, Odio Mimonet and Tiffany Amber.”

via africanprintinfashion.com

eightyjane created African Wax Prints
Created on http://ohthatsyou.com

DIY November: Painted Pumpkins

I love the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving. Then again, who wouldn’t swoon for a day consisting of great food, company, fall fashion and a chance to unleash your inner domestic goddess? This November, I will be searching high and low for Thanksgiving day inspiration to create the perfect decorations and recipes, for a chic and memorable turkey day. Keep an eye on my Thanksgiving collection this month, as I add pictures and DIY projects to it, starting with these painted pumpkins. I have been seeing fancy pumpkins all over the web lately and thought I would give them my own a shot, adding gold stems, chevron patterns and polka dots. Currently my creations are sitting pretty on my balcony, but as pumpkins come in many shapes and sizes, they can fit almost anywhere. So place them on your mantle, at your doorstep, or on the center of your Thanksgiving table. Happy pumpkin painting!
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Some runway trends don’t make it from the catwalk onto the streets because they just aren’t practical for everyday life. You would think the crop top would fall into this category, but this has not proven to be the case. The trend was eagerly embraced by the likes of celebrities and us “regular” fashionistas. From Gwyneth Paltrow’s sliver of stomach at the Emmy’s to Kirsten Stewart’s cropped white tee at Comic-Con, it seems as if we all can’t get enough of an unexpected flash of tum. Don’t have the toned abs of Rihanna that only come with long cardio sessions and complex dance routines? You needn’t worry – this isn’t the late 1990s belly baring style favored by the Spice Girls and a young Britney Spears. This time around, the trend is about showing a hint of skin for a more subtle and classy reincarnation than its fully exposed predecessor. Before you start taking scissors to every top you own, read on to discover the best styles for your age, plus what to pair them with. That way, you can avoid looking like you’re going to a pop star themed costume party.
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Here Comes The Sun (Glasses)

Size matters. Or at least, that’s the deal with sunglasses! We’re no strangers to celebrities rocking huge shades and have emulated them over the years— but lately, it’s not just about the size. Color, style, and shape have become important factors in choosing sunglasses. By now, we already know which shape and size suit our faces, so how about some experimenting with this season’s trends?
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Whoever said one piece couldn’t be worn multiple ways? This spring/summer, a wonderful staple piece that can be worn in the day as well as night  is the much hyped about Asymmetrical skirt. But how do you go about turning the everyday skirt into a top model look?

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DIY: Tie Dye Denim Shorts

The denim short is truly a summer classic. This season I have seen store after store carry bleached and tie-dye versions of the summer staple, and DIY is the first thing that popped into my mind. Though this is my first time tie dying with bleach, I was up for the challenge. Turns out it is a super easy way to bring a little life back into your denim.  No jean shorts to spare? No problem. Just take some scissors to a pair of worn out jeans that you just can’t seem to part with. I have a few of those stowed away in my closet waiting to be patched up (something I swore I would get to three years ago). So I grabbed a pair and went to town. Now I am loving the results!

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It was a battle of the sexes on the MTV Movie Awards red carpet last night – well, sort of. Starlets overwhelmingly opted for two major spring trends: the feminine and frilly peplum dress or the androgynous silhouette of tailored pants and shorts. Needless to say, it’s a tough battle. Top MVP’s lead both teams and presented some serious summer style inspiration. Read on below and tell me which side you’re on: Team Puplum or Team Pants.
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Celebs and members of the fashion elite gathered last evening in New York City to fete the opening of the latest uber-exhibition by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute – “Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations.” The annual event, known digitally as #MetGala, is considered, by some, to the the Superbowl of the fashion world. The red carpet is an event in and of itself, where attendees sport the most glamorous and forward styles.

One beauty trend that popped out this year was dark wine lips. While safer ladies wore time tested shades of ruby, a few painted their puckers with shades so deep that they approached black or brown. Would you wear this Beauty trend?
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Spring is a time for cleaning out that messy closet full of cashmere sweaters and wool skirts of seasons past. This also conveniently leaves a little extra space for one or two (or five) brand new editions to the old wardrobe. March through May is all about rebirth anyway, right? Read on for my top spring essentials, just in case you ever feel the need to take the credit card for a spin.
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Splurge Vs. Save: Tribal Jewelry

With the arrival of spring comes the annual and inevitable urge to start incorporating out-there, eye-catching accessories into my wardrobe. The particular object of my affection is this tribal-inspired necklace from the jewelry geniuses behind Dannijo. But these stunning leather and turquoise claws come at a price – $502.00 to be exact – and if you’re anything like me and can’t shell out quite so much cash, I’ve assembled a list of pieces ranging from a mere $9.00 to a slightly steeper $207.00. After a more attention-grabbing look? Try layering a few pieces to make a bigger style splash. SPLURGE: Dannijo Levi Necklace

Tribal 2

Created on ohthatsyou.com
By EmilyBee


1. Sabine Tribal Necklace  | 2. Beetle Necklace | 3. Sabina Mixed Media Tribal Necklace | 4. Ethnic Collar Necklace | 5. Aztec Pendant Necklace | 6. Pamela Love Tribal Spike Necklace

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