By Caecilia Kusuma Wardhani
Vlisco is a Dutch brand that manufactures wax fabrics and spreads them over West, Central and Eastern Africa. But the story started in Indonesia, Between 1837 and 1872, Dutch East Indies deployed African soldiers, and stationed them in Indonesia. When some of them came back to Ghana, they brought the colorful fabrics home. There, the fabrics became very popular. It was adapted to the African culture and since then associated with Africa. It became a familiar component of West African culture. Around 1852, Vlisco started exporting batik made in The Netherland and sent to the Dutch East Indies, which is present days known as Indonesia. The Second World War followed by the independence of Indonesia ended the trade of batik. West Africa became the main market of the company and wax the main fabric. Today Vlisco factory and store is located in Helmond, south Netherlands and they have some branch stores in Benin, Democratic Republic of The Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Togo and etc.
The design of Dutch Wax is based on Contemporary African style, that has influenced the fashion landscape in West and Central Africa. Vlisco is still today the only brand creating authentic Dutch wax fabrics and it is recognizable for the unique design, colors and wax effects which, when combined, create this inspiring fashion statement. Every centimeter of fabrics is unique due to the special wax process, which originates from batik techniques. The fabric’s design is embrace long history but yet classic, with limited edition collections that bring exclusivity to the user. The prices that Vlisco propose are quite high for African market, around $100 for 6 yards of fabric. Vlisco has come to dominate an increasing lucrative fashion market in Africa with its distinctive and luxury fabrics.
Hans Ouwendijk, CEO of Vlisco said that 90% of their customers are in Africa. In addition to the growth of African countries, the demand has increased by 40% since 2010. This huge momentum happens when 6 of 10 fastest growing economies in the world are coming from Africa. African countries continue to show the growth of purchase powe
r and consumer power. The western countries today give modern use to this fabric, thanks to Acne, Balenciaga, Marni, Burberry, Dries van Noten, Jean Paul Gaultier, Beyoncé and Gwen Stefani are some of the brands, designers and celebrities who have incorporates and worn it.
Woman fashion in Africa has gone Dutch for a very long time. The West African consumer is not interested in a style or item, but can remember and related to the vast complexities that characterize many of the narratives the market woman develop. The West African consumer wants to communicate something about their political views or social status, personal situation, emotional state, etc. and uses their clothes to do so. The next big step in Vlisco’s business development, says Mr. Ouwendijk, is for the company to create its own ready-to-wear collection. It already has begun selling bomber-style jackets and handbags in Vlisco fabrics, recognizing that the younger generation of africa’s luxury consumers are gradually moving away from having dressmakers create custom-made clothing. This is one of the reason they invested in mass media advertising like billboards and prime-time TV commercials.
Vlisco ads by Sabine Pieper
For those who can afford to care from The Netherlands to Ghana, Clothes can reveal and reinforce their inspiration. Whether it is fashion or philosophy, it is something woman like and believe in. What is extraordinary is that at the time when African pride and the desire to be recognized is increasing, the Africans are unconsciously investing in the dutch brand. The woman like to compliment the west country with African heritage this core is represent that for woman working the fabric it is did not determine by where the fabrics came from.