Ankara Fashion - How We Got Here and What's Next?

Ankara Fashion

Just how accustomed should we be to seeing celebrities across all ethnicities style Ankara Fashion on the runway? But first, a little background.


The term “Ankara Fashion” which is prevalent in African Fashion can also be referred to as Holland Wax or Dutch Wax. Despite being commonly associated with African Fashion, Ankara fabrics was founded by Pieter Fentener Van Vlissingen in Indonesia. It’s an interesting tale of the clash of cultures and adaptation of a popular batik print method that Indonesia is known for and India has popularized. 

The batik prints in this Advance Apparels Maxi Dress and African Print Maxi Skirt are actually made from the same exact batik print process which you can see here. At Advance Apparels, we have been practicing Batik printing since the late 90’s and have used our experience to introduce African fashion over the past decade. It’s truly amazing to see how the same printing methods are used across different parts of the world to create such drastically different looks. This is where the beauty and individuality of Ankara print fabrics really shines. 

Batik print dress. How traditional India batik printing is similar to African print batik printing. Long African Print Maxi Skirt with matching headwrap.

Pieter introduced this fabric development process to Ghana where it quickly gained popularity and was adapted to the diverse local cultures and arts that Ghana is known for. These vibrant prints are far more than a fashion statement in African culture, it serves many purposes and the most important is the story of African heritage. This batik wax printing process gave textile designers the flexibility and creative outlet to tell these rich stories. Soon, wax prints were being developed as a tribute to personalities, cities, occasions, and even personas. In addition, wax prints have evolved into newer and not-so-traditional concepts that are more in line with upcoming fashion trends and mainstream media.

Mainstream Adoption

We will continue to see prominent Black women in the US style Ankara Fashion such as Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Beyonce, and Gabriel Union to name a few but it’s most interesting to see how Ankara fashion transitions to mainstream fashion. Below are some examples of the increasing popularity of Ankara in both the traditional and modern fashion space. Again, it’s important to note the versatility of how you can dress up or dress down a given garment depending on what you pair it with. 

Michelle Obama wearing an African Print Mid Maxi Skirt.

Michelle Obama rocking mid-length african print maxi skirt. Celebrities wearing Ankara fashion.

Gwen Stefani styling a mis-match Ankara print pants with over-shirt to create the perfect casual outfit.

Gwen Stefani in Ankara print trousers and jacket. Celebrities wearing Ankara fashion.

Kim Kardashian in a strapless Ankara Print Dress on the runway. 

Why will Ankara fabric continue to increase in demand?

The depth and messages behind African print fabrics and the comfort of these garments is what led to the boom in sales initially in Africa, and for the past 6 years in the United States and United Kingdom. Ankara fabrics always use 100% cotton making it very breathable for warm climates and versatile across numerous silhouettes. Here you can see the same fabric being used as an Ankara Denim Jumper, Off-Shoulder Ankara Blouse, Bell Sleeves Ankara Maxi Dress, and Kente Print Maxi Skirt. This degree of functionality for a fabric is rare in Fashion and ask anyone who’s ever stitched together a garment, waste sucks! 

The versatility of the fabric allows manufacturers to better control fabric procurement and lower wastage. Pattern makers tend to have a field day with the fabric and are able to effectively use every meter of the fabric to create something special whether it’s a matching head wrap for each product or a face-mask in this post COVID world.  The ability to minimize wastage and maximize fabric makes it a popular fabric choice for smaller businesses. 

We are excited to see the growth of Ankara Fashion in the new decade and will continue to update you on trends in this space.

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