African-inspired fashion accessories
Adele Dejak may have pushed her namesake fashion brand into overdrive to break new ground for timely industry trends like the authentic mud cloth craze. Nevertheless, she admits that the company is holding onto its core focus. In the quintessence of the African Renaissance, this means sticking to what the brand knows best. African-inspired wearables like “mud cloth” or bogolan, that make you feel good, aren’t stupidly expensive, and can be your everyday wear.
Why authentic mud cloths?
Malian Mud cloth fabric has grown increasingly popular, and Dejak’s African-inspired approach to design is even more convincing. Along with Ghanaian kente, real mud cloth is quickly becoming the most popular African fabric tradition worldwide — including Kenya.
The intricately detailed geometric black and white motifs traditionally painted on mud clothing. Today, they are visible on almost everything: from apparel, bedding, and furniture to purses, table linens, and head wraps is available.
Mud cloth, according to Dejak, is an inclusive art form. The fashion brand has made it a point to include actual mud fabric in its capsule collection of wearables. The inclusion of mud cloth fabric will undoubtedly rekindle consumer interest in mud cloth textiles in Kenya. It anticipates that by doing so, it would be able to fully realize the potential of African-themed clothing designs in the fashion industry. Our clutch bags and shoppers are sporting the mud cloth fad.
Is the authentic mud cloth trendy?
Authentic Malian mud cloth takes an important place in the heart of African culture. Recently, the fabric has become even trendier. Fashion designers leave nothing to chance in the attempt to express varied meanings through the cloth’s distinctive and white code.
In 1979, Chris Seydou, a Paris-based Malian fashionista, included a bogolan wrap in his winter collection and triggered the global popularity of mud-cloth designs. He founded the African Foundation of Fashion Designers that promoted the popularity of the fabric until his death in 1994.
Over time, however, African-looking fashion thinkers like Fatima Sylla have professed of their drive to refresh the popularity of the fabric. Adele Dejak has also recently taken to the trend to Kenya, under the African Renaissance banner.
The craze for authentic mud cloth has grown globally, breaking all the color barriers. According to Fatim Sylla, owner and creative director of Canada-based Sirani’s Fashion, mud cloth is the true African fabric.
Sylla has witnessed steady growth in the popularity of the fabric in North America and Western Europe since launching her Heritage Collection in October 2020. In her view, working on Malian mud cloth is amazing as they come with elaborate patterns painted on stiff cotton fabric. She leverages the patterns to design cozy jumpsuits, head wraps, bold blazers, and fun skirts.
Sylla adds that she launched the collection after witnessing the rise in popularity of African-inspired fashion across Europe. Her pieces mainly integrate mud cloth. She sources her prints from Mali and the fabric from Ivory Coast.
What do experts have to say about authentic mud cloth?
According to South African fashion scholar Dr. Elsje Susanna Toerien of Vista University, mud cloth is “probably the most influential ethnic fabric.”
Dr Toerien said: “Mud cloth’s popularity among Malians, Malian expatriates, and African Americans can perhaps be attributed to its ‘African connection’. People who have no idea where the cloth comes from also have them in their homes. Or where Mali is, and are totally ignorant about the fascinating technique used to produce the cloth. And the meanings behind motifs.”
“This can perhaps be ascribed to the absolute versatility of the cloth, equally at home in traditional and modern settings. It is also ascribed to the decorative quality of the designs, simple on their own, yet complex in their combination.”
Dr Toerien traces the dyes and fabric used in mud cloth to the 11th century AD. Indeed, excavations of archaeological samples from Bandiagara caves of Mali in the late 1980s indicated that the mud cloth art may have existed as early as the 11th century AD
So, what’s the story behind authentic mud cloth?
African antiquities have many brilliantly clever stories you wouldn’t want to miss out on, and the story of the mud cloth is one of them. Every design on the Malian mud cloth has a unique story to its intricate pattern. They can be standardized patterns, but each pattern has a unique twist to its origin.
The tradition of making beautifully patterned out mud cloths, or bogolanfini, is strongly linked to the Bamana people of Mali. Bògòlanfini is a term in the Bambara language made up of three words. “Bogo” refers to “mud,” “Lan” means “with,” and “Fini” means “cloth.” Hence, the term Bògòlanfini is Bambara for ‘mud cloth.’
Bògòlanfini designs are typically abstract or semi-abstract symbolism of ordinary objects, which in turn epitomize a historical event or memorialize a local hero. A popular integration of designs is that of Samory Ani Tieba Benyero. It tells the tale of the battle between a nineteenth-century king called Tieba and a famous warrior called Samory. Other designs have also celebrated Koumi Diosse, a hero from Beledougou. He led a revolt against the French colonizers in 1915.
Similarly, crocodiles have a striking significance in Bambara mythology, and many mud cloth fabrics sport a drawing of a crocodile.
Traditionally, hunters would wear bògòlanfini as camouflage. The story goes that by wearing bògòlanfini, one would benefit from ritual protection. Nonetheless, it was also symbolic fashion-wise as a marker of status.
Our 2022 Mud cloth bags are handmade at the AD workshop in Nairobi. The actual mud cloth are designed and made in Mali by Adele’s favorite Malian designer Boubacar. We hope you love them like we do.
Now available online.