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Ankara In The Boardroom

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Ankara In The Boardroom


Crossover Ankara topBalogun is a flurry activity on a hot afternoon in January. The stalls on this stretch of road are all open for business and beautiful pile of African prints adorn their frontage.

Balogun market situated close to Lagos’ commercial centre, Broad Street and Marina, on Lagos Island, is perhaps the largest market in Nigeria and indeed West Africa. It’s a sprawling market which spreads across many streets on the Island.  It is a favourite spot for retailers and tailors to get great bargains on different fabrics such as laces, Ankara and office wears and shoes. This market is best explored with someone who knows the way around and has a good bargaining power.

Truly, it is a place where most fashion designers who are taking the Ankara fabric to another level get the best prices. Their renewed interest in taking Ankara fabric to a new level on the continent and outside it is very visible on both local and international runaways. Not only that, boardrooms are gradually joining the train. The traditional Black, Navy Blue, Grey coloured suits for females may soon be shown the way out.

Today, it is common to see female executive adorn in dresses made of Ankara fabrics embellished with precious stones or sequins, or animal prints used for collars on bespoke suits. Simply put, traditional African prints are moving with the times.

African designers are fast re-defining styles emerging from the continent as Ankara1they defy stereotypes and they are encouraging female executives to wear handmade Ankara jackets to the office on Fridays and at times mid-week. Cute dresses made of African print are also in as female executives now combine armless short dress with Black of Navy Blue jackets. Female executives seem to now understand the importance of promoting their roots even ion the work place. They are embracing a range of new ideas and continue to expand their taste by spreading their styles across different ethnic formal wear.

Lanre Da Silva Ajayi, a local designer who own an eponymous label shortened to LDA, is one of the few Nigerian designers who has found a strong voice outside the country by making a statement and creating different collections for international Dutch wax print giant and the Vlisco-Urban Beat with the Ankara fabric.

With a strong historical design roots, LDA has been creatively combining pattern, print, exquisite and even traditional fabrics to produce day wear, evening wear, gowns and cocktail dresses and office wear that bridge time and make the label successful within and outside Nigeria.

Ankara“An LDA woman is the personification of sophistication,” says Da Silva, “femininity, brilliance and boldness, which are the inspiration for each of my collections. Couture, colour and boldness with an edgy twist are the signature of my designs.”

Influenced by traditional, long wrap-around skirts, matching blouses and head wraps for women, designers are creating body-hugging jumpsuits, or mini pencil using Ankara fabrics with bold prints with colours and energetic designs.

As a response to these demands Ankara manufacturers like Vlisco, makers of veritable Hollandis wax since 1846, has introduced Luxury Editions to meet the taste of the upwardly mobile 21st Century woman. The new Luxury Editions feature intricate embellishments in gleaming golds, shiny coppers and metallic sequins for a look of goddess-like glamour. In is range is the Palais des Sentiments Luxury Editions which features a mix of java, wax and super wax fabrics and melds together fabrics using an ornamental gold border of sequins and Lurex in a groundbreaking design called Golden Glamour.

Simi Belo, head, channel and trade strategy, Vlisco, says Palais des Sentiments is a colourful collection, with a strong interplay between intricate patterns, such as vibrant florals and paisley and henna-inspired designs, and brilliant colours, such as amethyst, chartreuse, turquoise, midnight blue and ruby red, creating a romantic yet youthful mood for today’s woman.

In addition, Ankara fabric is being used to create an extravagantly elegant fashion collection with long flowing layers, delicate draping, surprising asymmetric shapes giving inspiring new interpretations of traditional three-piece dressing. The fabrics have also been used to create a chic handbag collection with exquisite detailing, such as handcrafted stitching, decorative henna-like holes, delicate leather trims, golden rivets and luxurious leather toggles.

Da ViVa is another maker of the Ankara fabric that is diversifying its image471offerings by introducing a range of accessories from handmade bags to shoes and Swarovski necklaces. “Our vision is to dress today’s woman head to toe,” explains Carol Ahere, the public relations officer, Da ViVa. “We want to push the idea of people wearing the Da ViVa label to the office. We want women to know they can wear suit made of Da ViVa material to the office. We have our jacket range where women can choose from.”

The Ankara fabric is now a strong tool in the hands of local designers to create unique styles, a subtle mix of elegance and colour. It is a homage to the rich and diverse African culture blended with European modernity.

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