Vlisco is a textile company that since 1846 designs and produces printed fabrics that are a huge part of the West and Central African culture. Often known as ‘ankara’ or ‘wax print’ or ‘Wax Hollandais’ fabric it is used vastly by Africans to sew local dress. It can be bright, expressive, strong and makes an impact. Above all it is beautiful and Vlisco are recognised as the forerunners in authentic production of this fabric. Many other producers don’t compare when it comes to the quality of wax print fabric and so Vlisco can praise themselves on their professionality and innovative creative designs. They also do develop these prints quickly and expertly in Africa. This is then reflected in the great advertising campaigns that appear on their website, in magazines and even on huge billboards that I had the joy of seeing in Accra in Ghana. My interview with West African designer who had previously designed dresses for Vlisco highlighted that many designers from Africa actually do design the dresses we see in their campaigns. A new collection of prints are launched every 3 months with a different theme and then they are beautifully made up into stunning distinctive Vlisco designs to attract an international crowd. Their aim now is to ‘ inspire and gain the loyalty of younger generations as well’ and can do this also through their fashion and accessories collections showcased for sale in their 4 Vlisco boutiques in Africa.
There background is an interesting one. Here is a synopsis:
Vlisco was founded in a town in the south of holland by Pieter Fentener van Vlissingen in 1846 the company began by producing and selling hand printed fabrics and was run by Vlissingen family for over 100 years. The exported batiks printed by hand to the Dutch East indies (Indonesia) from 1852 and made good imitations of batik designs and exported them there. 1876 was when they started to ship these goods to Africa. African soldiers settled mostly in Ghana from being based in Indonesia and brought the crackling style batik back with them which was admired. The 1900‘s saw Vlisco experiencing alot of competition in Indonesia who started to charge high import charges due to their need to protect what their local industry produced. This caused Vlisco to seek other markets and Africa (with a few adaptations of design) was seen a good opporutnity for the and even today their core African markets are in Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Congo. Wax print in batik is a strong craft which results in a crackling affect (see our crafts pages on the AFG website for more info on this and suppliers too) This gives it originality and uniqueness. Vlisco’s wax print fabric is praised for its colour fastnesss and its strength.
By 1954 Africa became the main focus with 50% of all their production going their and this gave 66% of their profits. Africa has been a strategic market for them. This was where they exported both wax and Java prints, but with this growth the need to grow and find more sustainable effective printing methods began in 1966. They developed a printing machine which could print 20 yards of fabric per minute (which normally gave over 1 yard a minute when done by hand! Their last piece of handprinted print was done in 1993.
Superwax officially launched in 1973 as a superior cloth to the normal waxprint fabric. its effect is more marbled in appearance – a more time consuming process to produce this special technique and it is often seen in brighter colour usage too. Africans will often show the selvedge of the print fabric which shows Vlisco trademarked name ‘Veritable Wax Hollandais Vlisco’ or ‘Real Dutch Wax Vlisco’ as they became the only remaining producers of this fabric. As the popularity of the fabric grew Vlisco focused more on being a strong fashion brand from 2006 and marketed this to Africa. This can be seen alot from their campaign.
Vlisco has begun a trend that doesn’t seem to die. They now produce bags too and are right up there with other great African designers. We love their campaigns old (below) and new (above). Vlisco carry on doing such beautiful work we wait in anticipation for your next campaign and collection.