These “African print” fabrics are characterized by striking bold designs with beautiful and bright colors, combining traditional patterns and contemporary motifs. Not all African prints are equal, depending on their design, quality and country of manufacture, some prints can be quite expensive. Some design editions are limited, making them a collector’s object just like any other piece of highly desirable art.
Some of the highest quality African print fabrics are made in Holland. Surprise, surprise! The so-called “Hollandis” as they are reverently revered to in West Africa. For Africans, specifically West Africa, the Hollandis prints are more than textiles for clothing. These treasured fabrics are offered as wedding dowries and as precious gifts to those dearest to us.” Hollandis wax prints”, especially the limited edition designs are also a means of investment. The value of these fabrics increases over time, especially as they become rare. Just as gold is kept as a means of investment to be sold later when the price is favorable or when the investor needs the funds, Hollandis fabrics are kept to be sold in future. It is common practice for women in West Africa to save up for their children’s higher education, wedding or business ventures this way.
Very few are privy to the fact that “African print” does not have an African origin. African print was introduced to Africa by the Dutch. There are several theories, even bordering on myths about how this happened. There is however, one common element in this story - the origin of what we have come to know today as Hollandis, “Dutch wax print”, “African print” or “African wax print” is thanks to the Dutch. Today, the African wax print is manufactured in several countries, including West African countries, the United Kingdom and even China. This of course, has increased the diversity, popularity and qualities available. With African Wax print, the saying “you get what you pay for”, holds absolutely true.
With the origin of the African print being Dutch, there has been much debate about the Africanness of the African print made in the Netherlands or elsewhere outside of Africa. Many believe this debate to be unfounded as the designs of the Dutch wax print or the English Veritable wax print (naming often based on the origin) are based on African-inspired motifs and the design team often include African designers. The designs often immortalize prominent African and international heroes who have in some way made positive influences on Africa. For example the faces of Nelson Mandela and Obama have graced some of these designs.
As many established and upcoming African and international designers – Duro Olowu, Jean Paul Gautier, Dior, Gwen Stefani, Burberry, just to mention a few – continue to infuse their designs with the African-inspired wax print, we can confidently confirm that the African wax print has finally found its place in the mainstream fashion scene, no longer to be considered an exotica, but a major contender in the fashionista world.
Hollywood has since fallen for the delightful and distinctive designs of the African print with the likes of Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna, flaunting their fabulous African print collections so beautiful no closet should miss one.