What is commonly known as “Ankara” goes by a multitude of names: Dutch Wax Print, Real English Wax, Veritable Java Print, Guaranteed Dutch Java, and Veritable Dutch Hollandaise. I grew up calling them Ankara and although they’ve always been a huge symbol of my Nigerian and African identity, I had no idea that its history spanned over centuries, across three continents and bridging various power structures. The development of the Ankara print fabric has been best referred to as the “result of a long historical process of imitation and mimicry”. Their colorful cloths were originally developed from batik, a printing technique that originated in India, traveled to Indonesia, Japan and eventually to Java. The fabric is then machine-printed using wax resins and dyes to achieve the batik effect on both sides of the cloth. The result, a truly global aesthetic that incorporates African, Javanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian and European artistic traditions.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing these exuberant Ankara designs popping up every now and then on runways and in fashion papers, but these days, western fashion brands like Givenchy, Tory Burch, Stella McCartney, Burberry Prorsum, Anna Sui, Junya Watanabe and major brands like Urban Outfitters, and Anthropologie have devoted collections to Ankara and made it their business to consistently integrate Ankara prints within their repertoire. Dare we forget to mention the number of celebrities who have since adopted Ankara and wax-style prints, from Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani, Solange Knowles, to Lady Gaga and Anna Wintour. The Ankara print is permeating western fashion at a deeper level than ever. From accessories, to womenswear and menswear, there’s a collective call to pay homage to the Ankara movement in the most contemporary way. Take for instance Givenchy’s Spring 2014 Menswear collection, which saw Creative Director Riccardo Tisci’s vision, called Nerd Africa, come to life. You now see Bogolan patterns integrated into tops, tights, headbands, etc. If not overtly, certainly borrowed from Ankara print. Seeing the dash to incorporate Ankara prints and how the desire for them has grown exponentially over the past few years, Ankara print seem to have finally entered a new era, a welcomed addition—a mainstay and “go-to” fabric in spite of trends, for designers across the globe.
Using Ankara-inspired print fabrics, Shells Belles has envisioned and carved out a niche in the children's fashion industry. A niche that transformatively takes the original cotton Ankara fabrics to the more luxuriant and quality silk, chiffon and sequin fabrics to create eccentric kid designs creatively finished and tailored to the western party and preppy look. The transformation doesn't stop there, to further ensure the exclusivity and uniqueness of Shells Belles designs, Shells Naija, the lead designer has carefully custom designed every print used in the collection. The Shells Belles look is fresh, it is unique, it is different, and the value promise is to create designs that will make your little one stand out, look beautiful and feel special.