The story of African wax prints is a story of globalization. Ankara, also known as kitenge cloth, Dutch wax prints, or African wax prints, was originally created by Dutch traders living in the West Indies (now Indonesia) in the late 1700s. The Dutch observed how the traditional handcrafted batik designs were painstakingly created. The batik process involves drawing designs with melted wax on fabric, dying the fabric, then removing and reapplying wax in a different area and repeating. A Dutch inventor who observed this tedious process thought of partially automating it by creating a machine similar to the printing press to apply the wax.
When the Indonesians turned up their noses at these mass-produced cloths, the Dutch tried selling them in their African colonies, where the brightly colored fabrics immediately caught on and became what is known as African kitenge cloths.
Today there are factories throughout central Africa that produce kitenge cloth, as well as factories in the middle East and the far East.
Some of the best-known patterns have been repeated over the generations. They have come to have meanings, and can be used a form of communication.
The fabrics that Alexander chooses mainly come from Congo and Côte d’Ivoire. They are 100% cotton and of the highest quality, guaranteed not to bleed.