Ankara cloth which has been referred to as the cloth for the lowly is now the latest fashion trend
By Chinwe Okafor*
FASHION comes and goes, but it never dies, so the popular saying goes. It revolves and recycles. There used to be a time when the high waist skirts, pencil jeans, belly belts and wedges were once out of fashion. But after sometime they bounced back and became trendy. The wearing of Ankara has become trendy and it’s no longer regarded as a dress for the locals. This trend has taken over the fashion world and it’s not just trendy and glamorous, but it is also fabulous.
The trendiest of all is the ankara match and mix pattern and plain designs in which blocks of various fabrics are sewn together on a plain material to create clothing with a few different colours. These prints have evolved from being a fashion statement in the continent to being a trend all over the world. It has taken a worldwide upswing with designers in various parts of the world tapping Ankara for use in their modern and luxurious apparel. The trendy designed fabric has also found a place in the closets of women across Africa and other parts of the world.
It has become a popular commodity which is displayed in fashion shows. This technique which was referred to as the ‘calico patches’ in the late 80’s and early 90s have found its way back into the present fashion scene. This time, they have come with an unrivalled boldness. And it seems they have come to stay. Uche Oforkansi, an Ankara dealer, said that what fascinates her about all of this is that no matter which angle fashion chooses to go, the traditional fashion never looses its value, adding that business has been worthwhile because the clothing fabric has become finer, less heavy, non-itchy and available in varieties.
According to her, the African material which has a combination of art, colour, design and history has been in high demand and is not so expensive. She said that the fabric sells for N2, 500 and above while there are also cheaper ones that could be sold between N1, 000 and N2, 000.
Vivian Okechukwu, a fashion designer, said that the mixed and matched design is almost owned by every woman and even kids are not left out. She said that the clothes are usually breathtaking when combined with plain fabrics. “Most women I know have at least one clothing made of these mixed and matched Ankara prints. They are either in the form of a dress, a blouse, short or long gown, a jacket, evening gown, skirt, corporate dress, casual shirt and even accessories.
She added that some international fashion celebrities have been spotted looking fabulous in outfits made from mixed ankara prints. Ngozi Udeh, another fashion designer, said that though times are changing in Nigeria, shifting one’s appointment with the whims of the society and fashion, it seems the fashion trend has come to stay. “Some fashion conscious people would not budge, as they would rather go as far as getting an expensive Ankara fabric to have their fashion taste fulfilled by their stylists be it young or old. Some people would use a costly fabric to make their own styles so as to make sure they fit into the latest trend,” she said. According to her, it is not that expensive to design one, as one dress could go for between N4, 000 and N8, 000 and even more depending on the style and circumstances.
Some young fashion followers would rather ask their stylists not to design the dress for them because apart from being a trending fashion style. They are of the view that it is very comfortable, classy and nice. Ijeoma Asomugha, who works in a private firm, said she likes to play around with her style and move freely in whatever dress she’s wearing. “I like the design because I am very comfortable wearing it and I just want to go with the fashion trend of the new age. I find it very interesting to boldly express myself through colours. I just want to look good and trendy, so I can mix my colours as much as I want and as long as I know that it makes me feel good.”
But Faith Emuwa, who is in her mid thirties, said she takes what she wears very serious even when it’s trendy. “I like to look unique, without just being among the crowd. I am aware that what one wears tells a great deal about whom one is, so even when I mix the prints, I go for matured ones that would make others want to go back home and copy me. This is why I pick my colour and styles specially to suit my personality.”