African print clothing has long been a symbol of high-quality fashion throughout the African continent. Many of the stunning patterns have meaning and are used as a method of communication - quite often as a means of personality expression or a symbol of status.
Traditionally influenced by Indonesian Batik, which is cloth-dying using wax-resist techniques, African print fabrics – otherwise known as Ankara (nothing to do with the capital of Turkey though!) - are produced using the Dutch wax-resist method. Wax is used to stop the dye reaching the entire fabric, so that the gorgeous, striking patterns are created. To find out more, see our What Is The Difference Between Batik and African Wax Print Fabric? blog.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for something of such quality and beauty to catch the eye of the rest of the world. And, as we all know, when something appeals to a mass market, cut-cost copies – using cheaper and presumably quicker methods of manufacturing - are not far behind.
These inexpensive imitations, which are made using a printing process, are known in the industry as fancy fabrics, iniwax, roller print, le fancy or le légos. These fabrics are produced for mass-consumption and are not expected to last for any length of time, as opposed to true African print fabrics which, if cared for properly, can last a lifetime.
The problem is, how do you, as a consumer, know the difference when both are bright, attractive looking prints?
It’s definitely an issue and it’s easy to see why younger consumers are taken in by the color palette and, more specifically, the price tag of imitation fabrics.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's good to know if you're getting the genuine article or not.
But if you are on the lookout for the real thing – true African print fabrics that you can cherish for years to come – there are things that you can look out for:
The colors are deeper
Fancy fabrics tend to have a more intense, deeper colour than a genuine wax print. Plus, a copy will only be printed on one side of the fabric, whereas real Ankara is usually printed on both sides of the fabric and it’s difficult to tell the inside from the out.
Every piece of the print looks identical
As African prints are produced using the wax-resist method, there are usually some slight imperfections in the dye work and pieces will be unique. Fancy fabrics, on the other hand, are more uniform in appearance and the printed patterns tend to be more precise.
Depending on the producer of wax prints, many of them – particularly those produced in Africa – may be one of a kind, whereas fancy fabrics are produced on mass for their target mass-market.
There's no detailed labelling
A traditional African wax print will also have the manufacturer’s name, product name and design number of the edge of the fabric (the bit known as the selvage, which stops the fabric unraveling).
Let ZWBDC take you African Wax Print Fabric shopping.
So, if you are looking for a true African wax print fabric that you can enjoy for years to come keep your eyes peeled for the genuine article. As well as coming away with something unique, you’ll be helping to support African designers and manufacturers, thus having a positive impact on the economy thanks to a booming textile industry.
We're with Nicki on this one!
If you want to see soe of the beautful clothing African print can make? Check out our 9 Ways to Wear African Wax Print Fabric: The African Print Maxi Skirt Edition.