Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Out of Africa

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Out of Africa

Article excerpt

Byline: By Vicky Pepys

Vicky Pepys reveals a bigger global picture

We go right around the world with fashion influences, don't we?

We've been going East for a number of years now, and still find a new approach to it every season.

We only seem to touch on Africa when we imitate the animals themselves, with leopard spots and zebra stripes, or a safari look with the European dictatorial and purposeful multi-pocketed jackets and jodhpurs in colours to blend with the landscape; nothing `native' about it at all.

But this season, thank goodness, ready-to-wear designers like Ashish Gupta, Cacharel ( under the direction of Clements Ribeiro ( Paul Smith and Eley Kishimoto have been inspired by African textiles. Even Jean Paul Gaultier used them extensively for his couture show last week.

And of course the high street follows suit. You'll see Africa in Top Shop, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins and even Tesco, with its own-brand Cherokee collection. African textiles are mostly woven and have a history, with skills taught from generation to generation.

There's Adinkra hand-printed cloth and woven Kente from the Ashanti kingdom in Ghana; embroidered raffia cloth, known as Kuba; Bogolan is the method of hand painting with mud from Mali and Adire is indigo-resist dyed cloth from Yoruba in Nigeria.

But this season's influences, very interestingly, come from Holland via Africa. The `batik' printed textiles with distinct patterns and colour are no doubt indigenous, and yet Dutch.

Buy a piece of genuine `African' fabric and it's easily recognised by a distinctive branding on the edge of the cotton cloth. Usually sold in six-metre lengths, `Real Dutch Wax' is the key phrase, and the best-known brand is Vlisco, who are based in Helmond in Holland but have subsidiary production companies on The Ivory Coast and Ghana. …

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