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HISTORY OF AFRICAN FASHION

HISTORY OF AFRICAN FASHION

A lot of things come to mind when hearing the term “African fashion”, things like colour, prints and patterns have always been associated with this beautiful style. Just like any other fashion style in the world, African fabric’s history is deeply rooted with pride and tradition. Over the years we’ve seen how this not-so-novelty fashion style has evolved from mainly lace styled clothing to styles such as Ankara, Adire-Eleso, Damask etc… For those of you that have never heard these terms, let’s take a closer look.

It’s been stated that the first sighting of African clothing in the Western world was dated back to 2000 B.C. – although the accuracy of this can’t be confirmed since it’s over a 1000 years ago -. However, what we can tell you with confidence is how “Ankara”, one of the better known African prints, was made fashionable in West African countries such as Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria. Surprisingly, the Ankara-style wasn’t created by Africans at the time, it was said to have originated from Indonesia. Slaves and mercenaries who’d been recruited to be part of the army, took a liking to the style of the clothing. The story goes that the local Indonesians created “Batik” which was later brought back to Africa by the mercenaries and slaves. There were different versions of Batik made by Indonesians and Europeans, which wasn’t a  wildly accepted trend. When manufacturers then turned to Africa and observed how the market merchants took a huge liking to the material and were able to make different versions, even better versions, of the cloth.. The Ankara style that we now know today was born.

Ankara made a huge breakthrough in West Africa and can now be seen on runway shows all over the world, from L.A.M.B to Marni and several others.


Ankara’s inspirational value made this style one of the most prominently worn African clothing styles. Especially on special occasions like weddings, birthdays, even on funerals to celebrate the departure of their loved ones.