The return of tie and dye, African know-how – Jeune Afrique

It’s hard not to remember the colorful and faded tunics worn by hippies. However, if tie-dye popularized in the west by the psychedelic movement of the 1970s, this tie dye technique has been around for centuries in Asia and Africa. “On the continent, the basin-dyed boubou is inseparable from the Muslim community, which is its first ambassador during religious ceremonies,” recalls Ivorian Lynda Cazilhac, founder of the young clothing and accessories brand Kalyca.


Fashion: Imane Ayissi, at the court of great stylists

When she arrived in France in 2012, this former employee of the banking sector was surprised by the ubiquity of wax, the only representative of fabric on the continent. The daughter of a fashion designer mother, she grew up watching her “dyer aunts” and is familiar with traditional knowledge and experience. For her first collection “Ayo”, launched this year, the designer decided to replace traditional clothes with dresses, skirts, shorts, shirts, T-shirts and jumpsuits with cutouts contemporary designed for the office and evenings. Instead of a very thick basin, she preferred lightweight materials – but equally natural – such as organic cotton, silk and silk crepe.

Natural colors

“The dads I work with in Côte d’Ivoire thought this choice of textiles was crazy at the beginning of our collaboration,” he laughs. This technique has been passed down from generation to generation of women for centuries, according to a precise process. The fabric is first tied by men using ligatures made of cotton thread. Coloring is a specifically female task.

Once immersed in hot water baths, the fabrics are macerated in vegetable pigments. Indigo, avocado pits, hibiscus flowers, cola nuts, dried onions, tree bark… So many natural, non-allergenic and biodegradable dyes, allowing you to get a blue, pink, red and d’orange color chart.

IN fast fashion, the patterns are printed and not painted, on poor quality materials

“In African capitals like Abidjan, you can find fabrics dyed with chemicals from Asia. However, these colors are more expensive because they are imported, not to mention that they harm the environment and the preservation of knowledge,” warns the designer. Natural drying in the sun gives the fabric a unique and vibrant color.

the tie-dye knew how to go through fashion without a single wrinkle. The fast fashion has quickly regained the trend by offering collections made at a lower price. But “in mass production, patterns are printed, not dyed, on poor quality materials with a questionable finish,” warns Lynda Cazillac.

fashion week

In the era of eco-responsible fashion, African techniques, artisanal and sustainable, have enough to pique the industry’s interest. In February 2020, two African designers entered the official calendar of The fashion week Parisian sa from lines that give pride to traditional local fabrics. Already in 2018, Cameroonian designer Imane Ayissi presented dresses dotted with purple spots using the “tie-dyeing” process.

As for the Nigerian Kenneth Ize, he envisioned the men’s wardrobe around tie, in collaboration with a network of artisans based in Kwara, Kogi State, and Lagos. Under his guidance, the boubou is cut like an extra long shirt, worn unbuttoned and in combination with carrot pants.

“These creators play a key role in promoting this knowledge and experience,” says Lynda Cazilhac. Imane Ayissi participates in the development of the craft industry with little local support”.

Ethics and social

In Burkina Faso, the European Union invested in the creation of cooperatives that enabled artisans to obtain employee status. But in Côte d’Ivoire their situation is much more uncertain. “The government does not give them any support because the country has other priority natural resources, such as cocoa and oil,” assures founder Kalyce. As a result, dyers work in small booths for a pittance. »

Three times higher prices, the only way to pay the true price to the painters

Born in Abidjan, the designer hopes to show the way to other entrepreneurs to end the informal economy and help improve the working conditions of small hands. That’s how she set prices three times higher than the torrents that are sold on the market, risking losing part of the goal…”, she laments. But the stylist assures that this is the only way to pay a fair price to the dyers, who work for about six months to produce a collection of 22 models. tie-dye and a total of 200 pcs. Ultimately, she hopes to convince of the need consume ethics.

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