African wax print fabric is a cotton fabric popular in West African countries. It is common in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Kenya, Tanzania. It is distinctive as being colourful with bold and bright patterns. Synonymously, it is also called Ankara fabric or Kitenge fabric and we will use these terms interchangeably. It is typically sold in lengths of 6 yards (5.4 metres) or 12 yards (10.8 metres). Our current stock is printed in Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania and we stock GTP, Nichem and Nidatex brands. We are continuously in search for more authentic sources with good quality fabric. The Origins of Ankara fabric Much has been written about the origins of African wax prints and the well known fact that there were not originally made in an African country. This makes for an interesting history. In summary, when the Dutch colonised modern day Indonesia in the 19th century, they sought to make money by attempting to recreate traditional batik fabrics that were part of the Javanese culture. The idea was to replicate and mass produce the handmade local cloth in factories in the Netherlands and sell back to the population. This failed as there was no appetite for the fabric. Interestingly, the cloths did find popularity in African countries, in particular West Africa. As a result, the popularity and demand grew and even the British started to produce the fabrics, with factories in Manchester. So the fabric was copied in Asia, produced in Europe, sold in Africa. Now you can buy ‘African’ wax print fabric made in the Netherlands, China, India and so on. Is it even African? This is where we come in. As a business, we believe in a certain type of equity. Surely, the consumption of a product cannot be the only thing that defines it as African. As these West African colonies started to gain independence from Europe and with growing industrialization, local design and production of wax print fabrics begun locally. There is such a vast array of African wax print fabric out there but we have chosen to sell only those that are manufactured in an African country. This applies to ALL the other types of fabric that we sell. Sadly, these manufacturers and makers are fast disappearing; intellectual property theft, cheaper and oftentimes inferior imitations, changing economic and political forces are just some of the reasons why. You only need to look at the first page of our website to know that we are mad about African wax print fabric. Growing up in Nigeria, this fabric was more commonly referred to as Ankara and really this is where the journey of Urbanstax began. Not only did I wear it as a child and growing up, I was also surrounded by it; be it in the market, at family gatherings or just in the street. It was and still is ‘everyday’ wear and I would liken it to wearing a t-shirt and jeans in the West. There has been a resurgence in popularity and can now be seen in high end fashion collections and runways around the world. I was always enamored with the bright colours and bold patterns and though my family thought this was childish preoccupation, I never grew out of this love. Urbanstax wax prints at the Knitting and Stitching show in London 5 Things We Love About Ankara Fabric 1.It is COLOURFUL Colourful and fun. It breaks all the rules about colour and you are sure to find the most unusual colour combinations. Whoever thought pink and turquoise go together? This is not to say it has to be in-your-face bold. There are lots of monochrome and minimalist African wax print fabric out there. There is something to suit most tastes. You can go bold, you can go subtle (sort of). Colour can have such a strong effect on our mood, creativity, outlook and there is someone who embraces this philosophy with total gusto. Karen Arthur believes you should Wear Your Happy and we love it. I believe passionately in the power of clothing and accessories to enhance your mood and uplift you spirits. Be it colour, fabric or a memory, whatever we adorn ourselves with when we do so we can decide to stand up, stand out and feel wonderful. Karen Arthur Karen says ‘Wear your happy!’ 2. It is VERSATILE A good quality wax print should be 100% cotton making it great for so many applications. We have seen the fabric in so many guises; furnishings, fashions, accessories, shoes, curtains, jewelry, wall art, quilting to name a few. Let us show you some of the absolutely wonderful things our customers have made with wax print they have purchased from us. Certainly, it is so much fun seeing these creations. If you would like to, please send us an email with yours and we will feature you on the blog. You can check out our ‘Look What They Made‘ section of the blog for more makes. Wax Print Skirt by Babajole Speedbird Cycling Caps by Annibale Cylcing Ankara storage boxes by Saskia Ankara cushions by Roads2Joya Family of rucksacks by Saskia Cycling cap by Annibale Cycling Kaleidoscope African Wax Print Skirt by My Asho African Wax Print Fabric Peplum top by Urbanknit 3. It has VARIETY There are so many designs out there, it can even be sometimes difficult to choose. You can go geometric, you can go large scale or small scale, you can go quirky, classic, linear, floral, abstract. So many choices! Go maximal Go minimal 4. It is EASY Its is easy to sew, to wash, to wear. The fabric has a soft but crisp handle and is a breeze on a sewing machine. Not slippery and not too stiff. (Beware of inferior quality wax prints which may contain polyester). Check out our post 5 Things to look for in a good African wax print to help in choosing the right fabric. It is great for pieces needing some definition, think collars, peplums, headwraps and the like. The fabric weight of our stock of Ankara is about 120 grams per square meter, making it a light weight cotton fabric. Fabric care of African Wax Print Fabric Wash at 30 degrees Celsius Iron on medium. 5. It is TIMELESS Ankara has been around for over a hundred years now and definitely here to stay. It is always in fashion. Can I Wear Wax Print Cloth? Is It Cultural Appropriation? This is a topic that has very polarised views. A lot of people wonder if it is okay to wear African wax print fabric if one is not African. Others might say the fabric is not African. What makes it African anyway? If you want to know a little more of my take on this, I wrote an article for the Craft Alliance titled ‘Buying and Wearing African Wax Prints: An Exploration’ . In addition, I also spoke to Jo Andrews of Haptic & Hue on a podcast titled ‘African Wax Cloth- A Long and Winding Tale‘. By no means do I have all the answers but I personally believe it is up to anyone to make up their own mind. However, I do not believe you have to be African to wear wax prints. It is cotton fabric with wonderful colours and patterns. Any injection of colour and fun into clothes, furnishing and everyday life surely cannot be a bad thing. Just make sure you get the good stoff! (Not a spelling mistake, fabric translates to stoff in German!). Our selection We love this fabric and if you do too, you can check out our current selection in the African print section of the shop. We regularly add new stock so the site so do check back from time to time. If there is something that is out of stock, you can choose to be notified when it is back. We would also love to here you comments, questions and feedback about your experience of Ankara fabric.