If there’s anything to love about African Fabrics and Clothing, it’s the bright colors, distinctive designs, and the fact that they are all hand-made guarantee the quality which also gives us something extraordinary with a rich cultural meaning. But then, there’s more to know about African Fabrics and its importance.

Highlights of the Africa International Fashion Week 2015

African Fabrics

African uses 4 types of clothes and in the order of tradition and value, they are listed as

  1. Weaves
  2. Tie Dyes
  3. Batiks
  4. Industrial Prints

A little insight into African Fashion



Woven Cloths are the oldest and most valuable type of fabrics in Africa. Aside from the fact that they are the most time-consuming of all, the complexity of the weave, color and the type of thread used determines the value of the fabric. Examples of Woven cloth are Mudcloth, Aso-Oke, Kuba cloth, and Country cloth.



This is a traditional cloth from Mali. The basic sections of clothes are composed of individual motif such as “fish bones”, “little stars”, “hunters”, etc, and comes in rich blacks, browns, and whites. Each piece of Mudcloth comes with a unique story.

Aso Oke, a traditional cloth of the Yoruba, has three main designs:

  • Etu – a dark blue indigo dyed cloth
  • Sanyan – a brown-cloth woven from the beige silk of the Anaphe moth
  • Alaari – woven from Southern European silk obtained from the Saharah via Tripoli



Probably the best known of the woven cloths was worn by political authorities and high-ranking officials of the Ashanti people are Kentes. Kente is a colorful fabric comprising of Gold, Yellow, Red, Green, Black, Blue, and Green. And each intricately designed piece of fabric conveys historical messages of cultural landmarks, philosophical concepts, political thoughts, and/or religious and moral values of society.



Tie-Dyes are indigo cloth or tie-dyed kinds of cotton. Tie-dye is a modern term invented in the mid-1960s in the United States for a set of ancient resist-dyeing techniques, and for the products of these processes. The process typically consists of folding, twisting, pleating, or crumbling fabric or a garment and binding with string or rubber bands. Followed by the application of dye(s). The manipulations of the fabric prior to application of dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from coloring the fabric. More sophisticated tie-dyes involve additional steps, including an initial application of dye prior to the resists (stitching, stencils) and discharge.


Batiks are cotton fabrics with designs painted on them using a wax technique. This is a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, or cloth made using this technique. Batik is made in 2 ways. Either by drawing dots and lines of the resist with a spouted tool called a canting. Or by printing the resist with a copper stamp called a cap. The applied was resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color, removing wax with boiling water. This can be repeated if multiple colors are desired.

printed_textileIndustrial Prints

There are clothes manufactured in Europe. Also referred to as Textile printing, is the process of applying color to the fabric in definite patterns or designs. In properly printed fabrics the color is bonded with the fiber, so as to resist washing and friction. Textile printing is related to dyeing, but in dyeing properly the whole fabric is uniformly covered with one color. Whereas in printing one or more colors are applied to it in certain parts only and in sharply defined patterns


Batik and Wax prints are more commonly used today in the creation of African clothing. Africans used them not just for everyday wear, but also for creating clothes for special ceremonies and events. Presently, celebrities, fashion lovers, the rich and the not-so-very-rich people have tapped into the stream of African Fabric and are getting their share of it.

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