This summer, our fashion collection Sapelle x ADIRE celebrates the ancient resist-dyeing technique of Adire. We conceived of a collection that not only celebrates this heritage craft that dates back to the 11th century, but also the sights, sounds and smells of Abeokuta, Western Nigerian the Yoruba people and Nigeria itself. The collection is a mix of Adire textiles, Aso Oke (hand-woven textile) and Wax prints, all inspired by the hand-crafting traditions and vibrant colours of the region.
For this, we went on the hunt for a reliable partner in Nigeria, the home of Adire, who could translate our vision into beautiful textiles that would not only look and feel fabulous, but be produced ethically by artisans who were treated and compensated fairly.
The concept: an Adire viscose shirt dress for the Sapelle x ADIRE summer collection
We were very privileged to work with Cynthia Asije, who runs an Adire production workshop in Abeokuta, the historic origin and centre of Adire production in Nigeria. Cynthia is a busy woman these days, as the popularity of Adire textile is growing. We had a quick-fire interview with her to find out about about what she does and how.
The pattern is individually stamped using melted wax and starch on a template (typically made of sponge) onto plain fabric that has had some ‘blushing’ in light yellow applied to it
Q: Cynthia, it’s been a pleasure to work with you. How long have you been doing Adire production?
A: I’ve enjoyed working with you too! I and my team of artisans have been producing Adire for three years now.
Q: What made you start on this path, and what has your journey looked like so far?
A: I went to the University of Benin and then started a career in banking for two years, then resigned to focus on producing Adire full-time. The idea to start doing this came about when I did my mandatory one year National Youth Service Corp in Abeokuta (the capital of Adire production). After the Youth Service, I moved back home, bringing some Adire fabrics with me to sell to my friends and family. The fabrics sold out quickly, but my clients complained that the prints were too strong, and that there was not enough variety of fabrics and colours – at the time, most adire was produced on a fabric called guinea brocade – which is great for the traditional caftans and gowns, but not to much for wearing everyday. Also, the dyes used would run excessively when washed. With all these complaints, I decided to get involved in producing premium hand dyed textiles, sourced for unique fabrics, create unique designs, and ensure the quality of our fabrics is top notch.
The stamped fabrics being submerged into dye to soak into the parts that have not been stamped with wax
Q: Tell us about your Adire production workshop
A: Our production staff are employed full time. Most of the makers that work with us learned the skill at an early age, which has been passed down from generation to generation. They had the skills but no commercial ability to make a it a source of sustainable income for themselves.
Q: What materials do you use for your production?
A: We use a variety of textiles from cotton, to jersey, viscose, chiffon and silk. For cotton fabrics we use a little starch for the resist-dyeing, Candle wax dyeing is another technique we use for making our designs.
Once dyed, the fabric is put into hot water to melt off the wax, revealing the final design, then hung out to dry. Any remaining bits of wax are removed with an iron
Q: What have been your biggest challenges since starting up?
A: We struggle with issues like other producers and designers copying our designs, getting access to a wider market and also getting financing for my business’ working capital and growth.
Q: What is your vision for Adire textile production?
A: I’m driven by preserving Nigerian culture and heritage, and I want to see more Nigerians wearing Adire textiles to work, school and special occasions. I’d love to open up an Adire production school and support the expansion of the craft to more artisans.
The finished product, part of the Sapelle x ADIRE Summer ’18 range