During my childhood, I remember that when women got dressed to go out for parties and events, they donned the traditional lace buba and iro (blouse and wrap skirt) associated with the South-Western part of Nigeria or the lace/satin blouse and “george” fabric wrap skirt associated with the Eastern part of Nigeria. Accompanied by towering head-gear of all shapes, colours and sizes, beads, gold trinkets and coordinating hand-bags and footwear they represented the height of Nigerian fashion. A little later on, influenced by Senegalese fashion, the Boubou, a billowing Kaftan-like attire made from batik and tie-dyed fabric and matching embroidery work around the neckline and hems, stormed the fashion scene and women wafted around in these gargantuan (often) heavily starched attire. I often thought in my head that one could get concussed if one were to run into these starched contraptions, thankfully I was never unfortunate enough to test the veracity of this thought.

The colourful fabric known as Ankara was considered to be cheap and very unfashionable. It was reserved for hard-done by folk who could not afford the lavish lace and george fabrics. It was never a fabric that one could wear on an outing. Today, however, Ankara has literally taken on a different life form; we simply cannot seem to get enough of it. Almost every Nigerian designer from “Jewel by Lisa“, “Zebra” to “Ituen Basi” use it in their collections in the most amazing ways. It has featured on runways abroad and at home, it is everywhere; I mean everywhere. The lowly rejected Ankara is now a mainstay in every woman’s wardrobe.

It is quite an interesting turn around as I remember that the first time I wore Ankara, I hated it. It was my grand mother’s funeral and the family was bedecked in this putrid brown Ankara fabric. To make matters worse, one of my aunts had the bright idea to make mine into a Boubou; a double fashion faux pas to me!

Yellow Tulip Ankara Dress by Zebra

Thankfully, I survived that era and now I am enjoying the Ankara renaissance. The versatility, the colours and the patterns have given rise to so many possibilities. It can be beaded, sequined and bejewelled. Ankara clothing are made for casual wear and formal wear; it is popularly worn to events like weddings, coctails and the beach; “Da Viva” has a collection of Ankara bikinis made by “Patience Please“. Its status has even be elevated for use in upholstery of avant guard furnishing (Zebra Living makes the most amazing chairs and ottomans covered in Ankara) andย  it is also used to make footwear, necklaces and ornaments which have been made popular by Ituen Basi.

Chair by Zebra Living

Abule Chair by Zebra Living

Not to be left out of this raging trend Aldo shoes in the UK now have two pairs (of decidedly unattractive – in my opinion) ankara-covered wedges on sale.

Aldo Ankara wedges in the shop window captured by Ijeoma Uju who was in the UK last week

Aldo Ankara Clutch - Picture taken by my friend Simbo during her UK Holiday in April 2011

Some of the trendiest hand bags are now made partly or entirely of Ankara. Tiffany Amber has a new collection of leather and Ankara Birkin inspired bags and yours truly is the proud owner of some really trendy arm candy made from the ubiquitous fabric (pictured below).

Picture of Ankara clutch kindly donated by Ijeoma Uju

Yellow Ankara Dress and Brown Ankara Bag

It is trendy and it is available; go on then, do some shakara in Ankara. You know you want to ๐Ÿ™‚

You could also read an interesting piece on the history of Ankara by Bella Naija at http://www.bellanaija.com/2009/02/16/vogue-celebrates-nigerian-ankara/

Yellow Ankara Dress and Green Ankara Bag with matching bangle

For more information on the bags pictured above or to place orders please contact me at dilim21@yahoo.com

39 replies on “"Ankara shakara"

  • mimi lawrence

    yes ankara has taken over the world… even asos now sell ankra (even though its very expensive) but african prints are getting recognised by more and more designers!!!! personally i love wearing ankara on a normal day here in England… i think its great….. i’m going to shakara in my ankara ๐Ÿ˜‰ well done aunty loved it xoxoxox

  • Seyi

    Hey Nkem, Now I understand why you sometimes carry those fabulous looking ankara print hangbags (which compliment your super chic outfits). So it is all about the marketing strategy ehn. just kidding. They are really really nice . Looking forward to getting one from you soon.
    There is no gainsaying that Ankara is definately ‘it’ for now. I am amazed that the fabric is now being used on chairs as well. Really creative.
    We can never really predict with fashion. Who knows, we might start to use ‘apoche’ material again, (you know that velvety like material that was being used as fabric on chairs). I mean, it might get to a stage that if you have not worn ‘apoche’ you have not arrived (I hope that never ever happens. I am not an ‘apoche’ hater but plsss).
    Once again, a nice piece by Nkem. Please I am coming by your house to snatch that lovely yellow tulip ankara dress in picture 1 (Including the accessories, thank you very much).

  • aunty N

    Trust me, they ve not seen nothing yet! Na me and them this summer in my ankara shakara….wish I can get more!!!! Nice one dear! Keep it up.

  • Oto

    Nice! Nice! u never cease to inspire or amaze me with your perspective of things ….. in the interim, i want that chair and the purse as well!

    • nkemdilim

      Hey Oto! The chair is available at Zebra Living in Victoria Island. The bags are available from me and there are loads to choose from. Will send you the catalogue ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your comments love. Hugs

  • toun

    Hi Nkem,
    Amazing piece I must say…its really time to shakara in my ankara.lol…I love that yellow dress..and the chair and the bags and everything…keep the posts and picture coming

  • Ian Audifferen

    fantastic article Nkem….wonderful pieces you’ve got there might i add.Have some ankara tricks up my sleeves which i shall share to the world in due time..kudos

  • Pay

    I had always been afraid of wearing ankara in any design other than the usual native styles. I had always felt awkward about it. Recently though i have tried to summon up courage to make some dresses in ankara and im realising that, “Its not bad at all!!!!!!!!!” It does not give me a totally different identity as i used to think. What i need to do now is have you make me some of your beautiful designs. The bags i still need to get used to though (Yes, chicken like me). Im getting there! BUT! Well done darling! This is great!

  • Adenike AIyedun

    Oh wow, stunning outfits love! I must say I was most impressed with that chair! It’s hot! Personally, I love the ankara trend and how it is taking the world by storm. I had no idea, there were ankara bikinis though…really? I definitely need some of those. It would also be interesting to see an ankara wedding dress one of these days. Don’t tell, they already exist…

  • monty

    These articles are truly a perfect blend of your passion for food and fashion…. the creativity, the presentation, the excellent taste (bursting with flavour…. I know this from firsthand experience) and the love for your art is evident. Food and fashion are two main ingredients that God infused into every woman…, the way we present and nourish ourselves, our families and generations to come are all interwoven into Godโ€™s perfect plan for us and His kingdom. God bless you sweetie, I am so proud of you and I look forward to your next home cooked creation presented in true โ€˜Ankara Shakaraโ€™ style!!

  • The Relentless Builder

    The way you were holding the purses in the last 2 pictures, it looked like you were “dashing” them to me. So, with my humble, modest self, I accept them (and the yellow dress too), make I go do my own shakara in ankara (That rhymes … I wonder why no one has written a song on that? *grabs pen and gets to work*) LOL

    • nkemdilim

      Catch me if you can ;)……My friend and I have started designing our own range of Ankara bags, so look out for those soon! Errrrrrrrr when your done penning your song………kindly let me hear it ๐Ÿ™‚


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