FAST INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING | FREE UK SHIPPING orders over £50 | £5 USA SHIPPING | FREE RETURNS
0 Cart
Added to Cart
    You have items in your cart
    You have 1 item in your cart
    Total
    Check Out Continue Shopping

    Boutique Fashion News — sapelle

    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.

    Image result for indigo history

    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: Sarajo.com 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

    adire polka dot top square

     

    Deep Roots of the Basotho Blanket

    Basotho blankets

    Right now, dropping the words Basotho blanket into a conversation may draw blank looks of incomprehension from most people. But all that is changing.

    Glimpses of the upcoming Black Panther movie (coming out in February 2018) reveal scenes where the warriors of the Wakanda kingdom are draped in Basotho blankets, casting the spotlight on an iconic feature of the clothing and culture of the small mountain kingdom of Southern Africa, Lesotho.

    Basotho Blankets glimpsed on a scene from the Black Panther movie trailer

    Basotho Blankets glimpsed on a scene from the Black Panther movie trailer

    This is by no means the first time the silver screen has launched a look or a trending style. The relationship between film and fashionista is a long-standing love affair.

    Think Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter 2007 collection which was inspired by Elizabeth Taylor’s striking Cleopatra outfits. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has firmly established the fur coat and pompadour haircut as a cool 21st century look. And Anita Eckberg in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita is at least partly responsible for that enduring fashion staple – the little black dress.

    Basotho Blankets spotted in a scene from the Black Panther trailer

    Basotho Blankets spotted in a scene from the Black Panther trailer

    And now, the Basotho blanket is being showcased and given a brand-new fashion twist by luxury brands like Louis Vuitton; brands dedicated to showcasing contemporary African fashion like yours truly, Sapelle; and Sotho and Southern African designers like Thabo Makhetha celebrating their culture. Chic ponchos, bomber jackets, dresses, shirts and trouser suits are all part of an exciting and ever-evolving collection based on the Basotho blanket.

    SA-based designer Thabo Makhetha's signature textile is the Basotho blanket.

    SA-based designer Thabo Makhetha’s signature textile is the Basotho blanket.

    The Basotho Blanket Backstory

    By no means a relic from ancient history, the Basotho blanket made its debut around 150 years ago. Legend has it that back in 1860, King Moshoeshoe I (pronounced ‘Moshweshwe’) of Lesotho was presented with a wool blanket as a gift from the French. He was so delighted with it that he had a wardrobe makeover, replacing his traditional leopard-skin kaross with the blanket. The King’s look was adopted by his fellow countrymen and women. Not only did it look beautiful, it was also just the thing for the country’s cold mountainous climate. It’s said that the contrasting stripe that is a permanent fixture in the blanket’s print design, started out as a manufacturing flaw but was embraced as a unique feature.

    And so, the Basotho blanket as the iconic garment of the Lesotho people was born.

    Wearing the Basotho Blanket in a ceremonial setting: Semonkong Lodge staff don the attire for the King's visit

    Wearing the Basotho Blanket in a ceremonial setting: Semonkong Lodge staff don the attire for the King’s visit

    Whereas in the west, we grapple with a ‘throw away’ culture, switching fashion styles on a whim, the Basotho blanket has endured for over a century as the traditional clothing of the Basotho people of Lesotho. It boldly symbolises pride in the national culture and traditions.

    The deep roots of Basotho Blankets

    For the Sotho people, the Basotho blanket is so much more than an item of clothing. Its roots are deeply embedded in Lesotho’s history and it plays a major role in its culture and identity.

    Different blankets are worn at significant turning points on the journey from cradle to grave. During their circumcision ritual, boys wear a special fertility blanket and this is replaced by another blanket after the ceremony to acknowledge their transition to manhood.

    Basotho Blankets worn by Sotho people of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

    Basotho Blankets worn by Sotho people of the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

    From a young age, girls collect blankets in preparation for their marriage trousseau. For his wedding, a man wears a motlotlehi, and on the birth of the couple’s first child, he gives his wife a serope. Like the kente cloth in Ghana or the bogolan (mud cloth) in Mali, the Basotho blanket is a textile enshrined like a precious jewel in local culture and represents major milestones in a person’s life cycle.

    Collaboration with ‘authentic’ designers.

    With its distinctive designs, the Basotho blanket is also a thing of great beauty, a fact that has not been lost on the global fashion industry. There has been a lot of debate recently about international brands working with heritage design, examining where ‘inspiration’ turns into ‘appropriation’ – read the BBC article on the Basotho blanket issue in the link below. At Sapelle, we believe that respecting the ownership and rights of the cultures we work with is the only fair way forward and so we have collaborated with an ‘authentic’ designer who originates from the Sotho people, Thabo Makhetha to produce our stylish poncho.

    Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket in Blue print (also available in Monochrome print)

    Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket in Blue print (also available in Monochrome print)

     The future’s bright. The future’s ethical

    There’s never been a better time for fashion companies to rethink their strategies along ethical lines, whether its thinking about the environmental impact or consulting and collaborating with the cultures that originate the designs, and even helping to promote them to as to keep heritage wealth alive and thriving.

    We now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the food we eat counts. It’s becoming increasingly evident that the clothes we put on our backs need to be part of a radically new way of thinking. For the future to look bright, the universe desperately needs conscious designers who will lead the way in ethical fashion production.

    Read the BBC piece: ‘When does cultural borrowing become cultural appropriation’

    Shop the Sapelle x Thabo Makhetha Basotho Blanket Poncho here

    Words: Yvonne Lloyd

    Header image: courtesy of I See A Different You

    Our Pop-Up Partner FKA tells us about Senegalese Rabaal Textile

     

    18766114_1863602740544854_6301347397697683292_n

     

    We’re thrilled by our summer pop up programme, and are counting down the days before we welcome FKA Atelier, a luxury Senegalese accessories brand that features the beautifully crafted Rabaal textile in its pieces. FKA will be resident at our 281 Portobello Road shop from 10 June until 8 July, with special events being held during that period, so don’t miss out!

    Who is behind FKA Atelier brand ?

    My name is Fanta, I’m an accessories lover and a life traveler. I’m inspired by the traditions and aesthetic codes of my mixed cultures: a bridge between Europe and Africa. Over m
    y blog H&Y, I already shared afro-metropolitan inspirations and stories. FKA Atelier is the junction between my interests. Besides me, I have a team of free spirits, crafting products with a soul, for free spirits, with a style.

    FKA Founder, Fanta Ka

    FKA Founder, Fanta Ka

    How does your brand celebrate your Senegalese culture?

    We exclusively use precious and meaningful materials, such as Rabaal, traditionally used in West Africa for all the key events (birth, naming, wedding…) handwoven by Senegalese craftsmen, but also the best leathers and skins. It’s a way to show our culture.

     

    10747968_728866997194901_1713536194_n

    Can you tell how Rabaal is made?

    Rabaal is a typically African fabric, handmade with cotton and silk fiber. What makes its particularity is the richness of its colors, the diversity of patterns, and finally its robustness. Made from woven strips, the pieces are assembled by a tailor to fit its final size.

    How is Rabaal used traditionally in Senegalese culture?

    You could find Rabaal in the ceremonies of marriages : the bride is covered with a Rabaal before entering the house of her husband. But also in naming : newborn is wrapped in the most beautiful Rabaal of the mother. However, it is also used on a daily basis. The mother covers her child during his outings, noble women regularly ordering Rabaal to the weavers who settled on the property, time to realize the fabric. The hostess provides thread, food, and pays the labor.

    Does the fabric you use have a meaning?

    Yes. The pattern punctuated by geometric lines and ornaments contains a symbolic message. Just as with proverbs, we proceed by analogy and decipher the meaning; it became a relay of the word, a vehicle of communication requiring no words. These are mystical pieces with a powerful magnetism that link critical moments of life. Rabaal is one of the means of expression at the disposal of women and men, to express their feelings with subtlety and refinement.

    18485997_1856791244559337_5120518971648635063_n

    Save

    Save

    Save

    Q&A with our May 2017 Pop-Up Fatima Kamselem

    From Saturday 27th May to 3rd June, we will be hosting the Pop-up of Nigerian designer Fatima Kamselem’s accessories brand PhatKam. Fatima’s range of accessories is infused with vibrant wax prints that are sourced locally and handmade by her team of skilled craftspeople. Sapelle worked with Fatima to co-design the range that we will be showcasing in the shop. The range includes bags for the stylish woman with a busy lifestyle and a love for unique design.

    Sapelle is excited to work with Fatima because of our commitment to not only showcase African-inspired products, but more importatnly, to source from Africa and work with people who share this commitment. Because of the challenges faced by producers in many African locations, the temptation to outsource production to the Far East or Europe where the road to production is smoother, is often strong. We were drawn to Fatima’s ‘made in Africa’ ethos and were happy to co-design on certain features like the choice of fabrics and functional features.

    fatima mustard tote square

     

    Linda from our team caught up with Fatima this week to ask her a few questions about her experiences of doing business in Nigeria.

    Q: African Fashion is usually associated with low-quality products. What’s it like to produce in Nigeria and manage to maintain high-quality standards?

    Maintaining high standards for me stems from the passion I have for what I do. When you commit wholeheartedly to something, you don’t allow yourself to cut corners and that is where the quality begins to slip; when people want to cut corners. I think being true to what I do has allowed me to maintain a high standard

    Q: Our customers hear about “Made in Africa” but what is your experience of this practice on the ground? Why is it important for you to produce in Nigeria? What positive and negative experiences have you had when producing in Nigeria?

    The made in Africa movement is one lot of young Africans are hopping on everyday. As someone who is proud of her heritage, I always wanted to showcase that to the world and my products became a perfect avenue to channel all that energy. Producing locally and knowing that I’m directly impacting the lives of locals is one of my main motivations for doing what I do. Like every other entrepreneur, there’s always challenges and my journey hasn’t been any different but those are the moments that make the journey all that more interesting.

    Q: How does your production activity impact lives of Nigerians you employ?

    My employees are people like me who have an affinity for fashion; and are as passionate about Africa as I am. They have the same vision I have for the brand and it gives them the opportunity to hone their own skills and someday have a brand of their own. They would, in turn, hire other people and give as many people as possible a chance to better their lives

    Q: Is it challenging to find quality raw materials for your brand? How do you overcome the challenges?

    Given how famous the traditional African attire is in Nigeria, sourcing raw materials has not been too difficult.

    Q: Few women start their own business. As a woman, how would you describe your journey of entrepreneurship, furthermore in Nigeria?

    Entrepreneurship is challenging anywhere in the world, but even more so here in Nigeria. The business climate is just starting to improve, as the government is realizing the importance of entrepreneurs to the economy. Being a woman, the biggest challenge is the lack of representation but I’ve had a few personal women in my life that have laid the foundation for my journey; and in them, I have always found a helping hand

    Q: When did you realise that you wanted to start your own company?

    I have started several ventures in the past and when I got this idea, it was a natural progression that made sense. I have the opportunity to fuse two things I am very passionate about namely, my African roots and fashion.

    Q: How do you mix African inspirations with the modern’s expectations of your customers?

    People’s tastes change all the time in fashion. Recently, we have been noticing a trend shift all around the world where people are being more and more receptive to African fashion.

    2017-04-11-PHOTO-00000079

    Fabric selection in a market in Lagos

    Save

    Save

    Save