Bold plans are being forged at Vlisco, the Dutch textile company whose wax prints have been the toast of African fashionistas for over a century. If you don’t know the name, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the prints. They’re what we consider traditional ‘African’ prints even though they orginated in Indonesia before being adopted by the powerhouse that is the Vlisco manufacture, based in southern Holland.
While the prints have traditionally been sold by the yard to be made up by personal tailors into one-off garments, the brand is moving into off the peg territory. It’s an ambitious move that marries the decades-old tradition of the prints with the emergent luxury consumers of the African continent and the global ready-to-wear consumer.
The result is the beautifully produced Atelier Vlisco capsule line, designed and made in Italy from archive Dutch Vlisco prints (there are around 300,000 prints in the archive and one print can take a month to produce). Think graphic renditions of toothpaste tubes, fans and farmyard animals transformed into leather-panelled biker jackets, tailored ‘sweatshirts’, gigantic clutch bags and mini back packs.
The creative team are based in Milan which gives a clue to the kind of high end fashion consumer the brand is targeting. The cuts are contemporary and cool, the quality is excellent and the prices are pitched accordingly (averaging £200-£800). The SS15 look book alone is attention-worthy with its slick production and clean styling. Although it’s early days, stockists so far have included Net-a-Porter, Isetan, Luisa via Roma and some independent Italian stockists. With a PR machine poised to roll, I can see Atelier Vlisco finding its way onto the backs of Rihanna, Rita et al, but hopefully in a slow-burning, strategic manner…
WORDS: Navaz Batliwalla/Disneyrollergirl
IMAGES: Atelier Vlisco; Navaz Batliwalla/Disneyrollergirl