Contemporary African Design: Colour & Pattern Insights | Eva Sonaike Blog

Is African Wax Fabric Really African?

Is African Wax Fabric Really African?

Inspired by the Hotel Terminus Nord, that was featured in our recent Blog Post on The Top 7 African Design Inspired Hotels Around The World, I thought it was the right time to cheer you up a little with some bright and colourful wax fabric.

All our African inspired designs such as our African cushions, African interior fabrics and African pouffes here at Eva Sonaike, are inspired by the colourful textiles that are so popular all over Africa, so what better way to share something I feel so passionate and inspired about.

Originally a fabric for clothing and attire, wax fabrics and their designs are used nowadays to enhance a variety of products. In the mood board, we see the yellow Aburi Cushion by Eva Sonaike, wax print short dress by Stella Jean, blue and white chair by Anthropologie, umbrellas by Babatunde, wax sneakers by Afrikea, wax print surfboard by Bantu Wax.

But did you know that these fabrics don’t originate from the African continent?

The most popular and qualitative wax fabrics that set the trends are designed and manufactured in the Netherlands, in a factory town called Helmond, by the Vlisco cooperation. The Dutch and Vlisco in particular, have dominated the African print-fabric market since the end of the nineteenth century.

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A famous Dutch merchant family called the Van Vlissingens founded Vlsico in 1864. One of their sons went to Indonesia where he discovered the batik method of dyeing cloth and brought this method to Europe to industrialise.

By the late 1800s, the Dutch factories were supplying the majority of the Indonesian batik market, and as the Dutch traders stopped at various African ports on their way, the fabrics began to gain popularity in Africa.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, when measures were taken to protect domestic Indonesian batik production, the market for imports declined and Africa gradually became the excessive market for Dutch batik.

Vlisco’s carefully guarded technique for industrial batik is a complex process. Patterns are printed in wax on strips of cloth, which are then immunised in the dye. The parts of the cloth not covered in wax absorb the dye, laying down a basic pattern. The wax printed fabric can be sent through machines that partially break off the wax. Since the wax breaks arbitrarily, no two lengths of the cloth are alike, which gives the Dutch wax printed fabric is a characteristic richness.

The most difficult part is to align the patterns in different colours. Vlisco keeps its alignment process a secret; it is this process along with non-bleeding dyes and high-quality cotton that makes the difference between real Dutch wax and the cheaper products on the market.

Up to today, Africa and especially West-Africa, where the real Dutch wax fabric carries the authority of a designer brand, consumers continue to prefer the superior Dutch quality to the cheaper Asian imitations.

I hope you found some useful information about the history of the wax fabric above and maybe got some inspiration for your next home update.

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Jan 23, 2022

Nice post & Article ,
Originally a fabric for It’s really good clothing please keep it up…
Thanks for sharing
Read more :

Apr 18, 2020

Hello Eva,
You are my big inspiration! Especially in this weird time, I take more time to listen to your audio’s on Instagram, to read and inform myself.
I have my handmade label Ndjamina, where I make accessoires and interior items in African Wax. Its my world and passion, I feel happy with all the fabrics around me in my working place. At the other site it’s difficult to find my way, time consuming because I make it all by hand.
A very interesting article about the African wax. I want to subscribe for the moodboard.
Thanx, Greetings & Take care
Amina Dilubenzi (Antwerp – Belgium)

Amina Dilubenzi

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