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    We Went to Ghana!


    If you thought we’ve been quiet recently, it’s because we’ve been cooking up all kinds of projects for 2019. One of the highlights was our recent trip to Ghana!

    From that first, ‘Akwaaba!’ (‘Welcome’ in Akan) until we waved goodbye to Ghana, we were treated to the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality, our taste buds were tickled with delicious food (ask us about the Nigerian – Ghanaian – Senegalese Jollof Battles), we were kissed by the sun and experienced the vibrancy of a nation with a rich history and a purpose.

    We didn’t pass up on the opportunity to bring back a memento: a photoshoot with talented photographer, Michael Assenyoh and beautiful model Peggy Boateng.

    Peek at some of our gorgeous shots, taken around the iconic Independence Square and the Accra Arts & Crafts Market on a gloriously hot and sunny day (33 degrees!).

    Remember – our sale continues on these beauties, so don’t miss the chance to CLICK & BUY yourself the one you’ve had your eye on.

    What’s that you say? Of course we brought you back a little something from Ghana! We reckon you’ll love these cute tote bags in a vibrant classic ‘Flower’ print – perfect for books, groceries and other bits.

    They’re available online for just £10 – be a good friend and spread the word!

    Click here to bag yourself a tote.


    7 Sizzlers for your Summer Wardrobe

    Sapelle African Print Ankara Top Yellow

    ‘BANANA’ PRINT TOP Pair with: skinny jean, wide leg pants, print-clashed skirt, denim shorts

    Sapelle African Print Ankara Skirt Yellow Blue

    FLIRTY WRAP SKIRT Fun, flirty and timeless. An adjustable tie waistband and neutral colourway make this a wardrobe essential

    prdct koele silver

    SILVER LEATHER SANDALS Beautifully hand-made by our partners in Nigeria

    Sapelle Adire African Print Blue Dress

    ‘FEATHERS’ HAND-DYED ADIRE SHIFT TUNIC The perfect fusion of heritage textile and contemporary design. Hand-made by Adire artisans in Nigeria

    Sapelle Ankara African Print Skirt Blue

    ‘SWALLOWS’ PRINT PLEATED SKIRT A well-loved classic wax print on an easy-to wear skirt that works well for may occasions

    Sapelle Ankara African Print Summer Dress Orange

    ‘TANGERINE & LIME’ PRINT DRESS One of our favourite prints combining easy fit, cool cotton and a bold statement print for vacation, party or weekend chilling

    Sapelle Ethnik by Tunde Aso Oke Handwoven Hand Bag Pink

    ASO OKE HAND-WOVEN & LEATHER HANDBAG Ethically hand-made by weaving artisans in Nigeria, a fusion of tradition and modern design and function

    Sapelle Debuts Adire African Textile Collection

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmadeWe’re proud to unveil our Summer ‘18 capsule, showcasing an eclectic mix of vibrant African textiles in flattering, timeless silhouettes.

    Sapelle’s design ethos is based on fusing authentic African heritage design with a contemporary style aesthetic to create unique pieces for the modern woman seeking to experience global cultures. This season, Sapelle captures the spirit of an ancient African textile tradition – the ADIRE (or ‘tied and dyed’ in the West African Yoruba language), and celebrates the artisans who have kept this tradition alive for many centuries.


    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    The tradition of resist- and tie-dyeing goes back centuries in West Africa, with the earliest known example from the Dogon kingdom in Mali in the 11th century. The early 20th century saw a boom in Adire artisanship, making it a major local craft in Abeokuta and Ibadan regions of Nigeria and attracting buyers from all over West Africa.

    Whether created by old techniques or new innovations, Adire today faces challenges and competition from digital and machine prints and other textiles produced in Asia. The craft, which was previously passed down the generations, is now at risk of dying out as young people seek employment in other sectors. Our wish is to see more people around the discovering and enjoying this textile, thereby creating demand for it and employment among the adire artisans.

    Sapelle x ADIRE

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    Sapelle has partnered with one of the most reputable Adire producers in the capital of the craft, Abeokuta to produce a line of custom Adire textiles for the Summer 18 capsule.

    “This is an exciting time in the African creative industry, with events like ‘Black Panther’ movie release and the rise of Afrobeats music and contemporary art increasing the public’s awareness of Africa as an important player in modern global culture. Since 2012 Sapelle has worked mainly with Ankara/ Wax prints that are synonymous with African traditional fashion, and which have a shared history with the Dutch who mechanised the printing of Wax prints,” shared CEO Daphne Kasambala.

    banner feathers maasai (1)

    “This season we go deeper into our exploration of African textiles by focusing on a textile that long pre-dates the Ankara or wax print. We’re excited to be focusing on Adire in this campaign as it brings new depth and meaning to our work, taking our customers on a journey into an African heritage textile that was born and nurtured in Africa.”

    The campaign was shot against a simple backdrop that allows the vibrancy of the prints to speak for themselves. The range includes this season’s hot colours from shades of blues that are typical of the ADIRE indigo tradition to the hot pinks and bold pastels that adorned the SS18 runways.

    Click here to see the full range.

    please insert this on all images: Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

     prdct yellow banana front please insert this on all images: Sapelle African fashion Adire textile handmade

    Q&A with our Sapelle x ADIRE Partner

    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

    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.
    adire production for sapelle x adire

    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.
    adire production for sapelle x adire

    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.
    adire production for sapelle

    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.
    Sapelle x adire african print shirt dress

    The finished product, part of the Sapelle x ADIRE Summer ’18 range

    Origins of Adire Textile

    When you think about African textiles, chances are your mind’s eye conjures up a dazzling rainbow of vibrant reds, yellows, blues and greens – gorgeous shades to brighten even the drabbest of days. But Adire fabric, produced by the Yoruba women of south western Nigeria is distinguished from other African materials by its unique and regal indigo colour. Adire, literally meaning ‘tie and dye’, is produced by tying and dyeing material in different ways to create a variety of striking patterns in deep blue and white.

    Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye, internationally acclaimed artist, curator and champion of Adire tradition and heritage

    The Origins of Adire

    The tradition of resist- and tie-dyeing pre-dates African ‘wax prints’, going back centuries, with the earliest known example from the Dogon kingdom in Mali in the 11th century. As a distinctive textile type, Adire first emerged in the city of Abeokuta, Nigeria, a center for cotton production and weaving, in the nineteenth century. Originally locally-woven white cloth (teru) was tied to produce simple patterns and dyed blue with elu (indigo) from locally grown elu leaves.  At the start of the 20th century however, huge quantities of shirting material imported from Europe gave Yoruba women the opportunity to experiment and so, as a consequence, more complex artistic designs emerged.

    Rather than simply tying the material before dyeing it, hand painting, as well as natural substances like pebbles, seeds and feathers were used to create beautiful, decorative patterns. Stencils made from the metal lining of tea chests were also used to craft a variety of intricate and distinctive effects.

    Historically, textiles, including Adire cloth were so much more than the fabric with which to make clothes. They represented a specific identity, with each ethnic group distinguished from other groups by a unique pattern, enabling members to easily detect outsiders. Reportedly, only people from particular families were entitled to participate in the production of Adire cloth, as it was regarded as an integral part of that family’s heritage.

    For a while, the production of Adire cloth flourished and it was traded as a valuable commodity throughout Africa and beyond.

    The Ebb & Flow of Adire cloth

    Commerce in Adire cloth was at its peak in the 1920s and 1930s but then started to decline as a result of the use of synthetic dyes, caustic soda and the influx of less skilled artisans.

    Interestingly, in the 1960s, trade picked up during the Vietnam War when the cloth was regarded by the US Peace Corps based in Nigeria and the western hippie generation as an iconic symbol of peace, freedom, protest and free-spiritedness.

    In those days, Adire cloth was made into clothes and bags, used as bed sheets, wall hangings and throws. And so the indigo cloth summed up the vibe and spirit of the swinging 60’s.

    The Making of Adire cloth

    Photo: Guardian, Nigeria Modern-day Adire cloth-making in progress

    Although the production of traditional Adire cloth involves the use of a natural blue dye, there are countless variations in production and style.

    The preparation and dyeing of Adire cloth was traditionally undertaken by groups of women. Cloth was dyed using local, fermented elu or indigo leaves in huge earthenware pots which were dug into the ground. Submerging cloth into the dye and then removing it, allowed it to oxidize and become blue; the more often the cloth was dipped into the dye, the darker it would become. To produce a glossy finish, the fabric was pounded with a mallet.

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    Submerged Adire dyeing vats

    Ibadan dun

    Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art Ibadandun Wrapper (Adire Eleko)

    The city of Ibadan was well known for producing adire cloths with eye-catching hand painted designs, usually signed with a symbol by the artist who created the piece. Highly labour intensive, the hand painting was typically done by women using chicken feathers, palm leaves and matchsticks to create a range of patterns. The pillars of the city’s town hall and spoons are a classic feature in the Ibadan version of Adire cloth.

    Olokun, goddess of the sea is the name given to the jubilee pattern, first produced in Ibadan in 1935 to mark the jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary

    Adire Oniko

    Photo: Oniko Adire cloth produced mid-20th century

    In the production of Adire oniko, raffia is tied around hundreds of single corn kernels or tiny stones to produce small white circles set against a contrasting rich blue background. To create more elaborate designs, the cloth is twisted and tied on itself or folded to produce a striped effect. A particularly beautiful example of Adire oniko, was known as olosupaeleso because of its depiction of moons and fruit.

    Adire Alabere

    Photo: Appio African Fabrics Alabere Adire stitch-resist cloth c. 1960s

    In this version of Adire, raffia is sewn onto the fabric in different patterns before dyeing takes place. The raffia palm is stripped, and the spine then stitched into the fabric and removed after dyeing. Custom dictated that hand sewing was done by women but if a sewing machine was used, men took on this part of the process.

    Adire Eleko

    Photo: Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences An Eleko Adire fabric produced by a female Yoruba artisan in 1950’s or 1960’s

    To produce the eleko design, cassava paste is painted onto the fabric in order to resist the dyeing. Traditionally chicken feathers, calabashes carved into different designs were used to create the distinctive design. In more recent times, stencils have been widely used in the production of this cloth.

    Adire Textile Today

    Out of widespread circulation for decades, Adire cloth is now making a triumphant comeback, as West African and European designers incorporate it into their contemporary collections, ans stylish women around the world are lapping it up. With advances in textile dyeing, the range of dramatic designs can be further enhanced with bold (and subtle) colours and used not only on clothing, but bags, accessories, soft furnishing accessories and art pieces. Salvaged from the ashes of oblivion, a crucial part of Yoruba history and culture has been preserved for posterity.

    Michelle Obama in Maki Oh Adire top and Osei Duro Batik skirt


    Related image

    Lupita Nyong’o in another Maki Oh ensemble

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