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The Ankara Explosion

Maria Ewhe:


The Nigerian produced Ankara fabric has proven to be so versatile that it is now recognised on the global fashion scene. Rabiyat Usman took a look at it.

It used to be despised and regarded as attire for the poor and needy some years back. But Ankara is growing in popularity to such a level that is becoming the toast of both the lowly and the well-to-do.  Ankara, though not of African origin, was embraced by Africans due to its affordability and texture which is suitable for African climate. Ankara is a 100 percent fine cotton fabric tightly woven in plain weave before different motifs and patterns were printed on it through various dyeing techniques using dye stuffs that dry faster and are easier to use. Ankara continues to make inroads in the fashion industry because of its strength; it is firm and smooth to touch and allows body heat to pass through with comfort for the wearer. It absorbs moisture quickly and dries faster, a character that gives it a cooling effect and makes it ideal for the hot tropical African climate. Ankara comes in various colours and grades such as Real Dutch Wax, which is the highest grade; Veritable English Wax, Veritable Dutch Wax and Hollandaise Plate 1and 3. There are also different collections like   Cranberry, Jewel by Tina; Aimas, Idelicious, Xuly, Tiffany, Amber, Momo, Lunar, Gloss, among others have included items fashioned out of Ankara fabric in their recent collections.  Most Ankara designs are inspired by tradition, history, culture, colours and so on. In summary, they have a story behind them. Some of the fabric designs are Vlisco and Da Viva, These fabric designers have inspired African clothing designers around the world to create fascinating and mind blowing designs.

The name Ankara originated from a girl named Ankara and was given to the cheaper  version of the Dutch Wax made by the Turks which was at the reach of the poor and was considered indigenous due to its vibrant color and motif. Over the years- with the building of textile mills and the continuous production of patterns that reflect African culture and each culture having its own preference for color and design- African print has replaced Dutch wax. The resurgence of Ankara in Nigeria was brought about by the ban imposed on importation of textiles  in 2003 by former President of Nigeria, President Obasanjo, in an attempt to develop the non-oil sectors thereby reducing the pressure of dependency on the oil sector.

Ankara has infiltrated the fashion world. It has gone beyond its use for wrapper. It is now enjoying the favour of contemporary fashion styles; with the skills of creative designers. Ankara when blend with other matching fabrics, is made into endless styles and designs for both office and formal occasions. Nigeria being the fashion conscious part of Africa, through the creative skill of the designers, have taken the fabric, explored it, improved on  it and showcased  it to the world in an infinite creative applications. Nigerians  now engage Ankara in making beautiful accessories such as bags, shoes, dresses, bracelets, bangles, hair ruffles, earrings and even bikini. The exponent of the use of Ankara in sewing different styles of skirt and blouse was  Stella Obasanjo, who was  the First Lady of Nigeria. She showcased Ankara in different styles in special occasions and events. The use of Ankara by the First Lady influenced Nigerian women in using Ankara to sew different fascinating styles.  It appears that an Ankara bomb has exploded! It is been worn for occasions like: weddings, engagements, burials, work place, Red carpet events, etc. The interesting part is that Ankara has gone beyond the closets of Nigerian designers, it has found its way into the International runways and American celebrities such as Fergie, kim kardashian, Rihanna, Beyoncé and her sister Solange, to mention but a few are now fans of the fabric.

A lot of Ankara fashion shows spring up daily all over the global fashion scene. One of the more noteworthy ones is the annual Ankara Festival hosted yearly in Los Angeles, California. The festival or AFLA as it is commonly known was created in 2010 with the goal of increasing the visibility of African Culture through fashion, Arts, music, dance, and food. The festival aims to showcase Modern African Designs in African Print (Ankara), established African and African inspired designers, young up and coming designers, providing them a venue to showcase their abilities, and develop their entrepreneurial ambition in the international fashion arena. Another notable development is the Ankara Invasion. This has been adopted as the collective name for the current global Ankara trend. Different items fashioned out of the Ankara fabric are now spotted in places where it was once viewed as unsuitable. African designers and their Ankara designs are now sought out in all the echelons of the global society and the Ankara fashion industry has proven to be a veritable goldmine in these ways and many more.

The Ankara fabric is one that is very versatile and constantly evolving to meet today’s fashion fads. Hence, one may go as far as saying that the fabric and the trend have come to stay on the global fashion market. Verbatim spoke to some local designers on the rebirth of Ankara fabric in our society and this is what they have to say;

Duru Kate, a designer resident in Apo, Abuja saidn in an interview with Verbatim that Ankara fabric has taken up the fashion scene in our community, apart from using it to sew traditional wears; it can also used to make a casual dress like simple short grown, jackets, trousers, shirts etc. and it can be used for many occasions, birthdays, dinners, award nights, churches, wedding and even as office clothes. And it is worn by different class of people, the rich and the poor, thou Ankara fabrics are expensive becomes of the rapid demand we also have the cheap ones, at affordable prices. We can get some Ankara materials for #40,000 upwards; it comes in different grades and patterns. An Ankara design includes symbols and motifs used in African art, prints inclusive, often convey meanings. Some of these icons include: stars, bottle opener, brooms, corn seed etc.

Haruna Mercy, a fashion designer said that Ankara has taken over the fashion industry; that it is always good to identify with something great. Many celebrities and highly placed people in the country acknowledge Ankara fabrics and that alone has taken it to places in and around Nigeria and Africa in whole. Apart from clothes making, Ankara can be used to make jewelries, bags, shoes, slippers, hair band, and also can be used for decorations. It has generated daily incomes for some people who specialize in Ankara designs.

The Ankara fabric is one that is very versatile and constantly evolving to meet today’s fashion fads. Hence, one may go as far as saying that the fabric and the trend have come to stay on the global fashion market.


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