I have long admired Dutch and African wax printed fabrics. I have been waiting since 2008, when I discovered them, for the United States to embrace them. Well, it has never really happened. So, that is why I am sitting on hundreds of decorative pillow covers made from Ghanan genuine wax prints and Dutch Vlisco’s screen printed versions of them. I recently downsized and gave away hundreds of yards of the fabric to lack of storage space.
Stella McCartney was criticized this week for using these fabric to make her collection for Paris Fashion week and not giving credit to West Africans or using black models to wear the pieces on the runway. Knowing the long and murky history of these fabrics, I find it rather difficult to place blame on her. The most highly coveted “African” wax print fabrics have long been produced by a Dutch company named Vlisco, who stole the look from Indonesian batiks. West Africans came to embrace them and fabric houses there began producing their own genuine batik versions. Now the Chinese are knocking off Dutch wax prints and screen printing their iterations of them.
This Slate Magazine article is very interesting and does a great job of explaining the evolution of these fabrics that may benefit from name clarifications- specifically Ankara, Dutch wax print interpretations, West African wax prints and Chinese screen or digital one sided knock-offs of Dutch wax print interpretations. Check out this article from 2012.