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Vlisco: Made in Holland, adorned in West Africa, (re)appropriated as Dutch design

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While the idea of ‘Africa’ is sometimes a source of inspiration for brands and designers aimed at the western market, the colourful wax prints by the Dutch company Vlisco were historically made for West and Central African consumers. These fabrics, designed and produced in the Netherlands, have become interconnected with African culture and identity. Established in 1846, the company Vlisco focused on the Dutch East Indies and later West and Central Africa as its export markets. Yet today, Vlisco is playing an increasing role in western fashion, art and design. Moreover, Vlisco has recently collaborated with renowned Dutch designers such as Viktor&Rolf, actively (re)appropriating the wax printed fashion fabrics as Dutch. In this article I explore the multiple layers of cultural (re)appropriation, and the deep-rooted ‘cultural hybridity’, underlying Vlisco’s wax printed fashion fabrics. The most recent form of cultural (re)appropriation is the way in which Vlisco presents itself within the context of Dutch design. In this article I focus on the hybrid cultural dynamics underlying the performance of Africanity – and recent Dutchness – through the use of Vlisco’s fabrics in the context of today’s globalized fashion system.
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Keywords: African fashion; Dutch design; Dutch fashion; Dutch wax; Vlisco; cultural (re)appropriation; cultural hybridity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: ArtEZ University of the Arts

Publication date: March 1, 2017

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  • Fashion, Style & Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal specifically dedicated to the area of fashion scholarship and its interfacings with popular culture. It was established to provide an interdisciplinary environment for fashion academics and practitioners to publish innovative scholarship in all aspects of fashion and popular culture relating to design, textiles, production, promotion, consumption and appearance-related products and services. Articles related to history, manufacturing, aesthetics, sourcing, marketing, branding, merchandising, retailing, technology, psychological/sociological aspects of dress, style, body image, and cultural identities, as well as purchasing, shopping, and the ways and means consumers construct identity as associated to Fashion, Style & Popular Culture are welcomed. The journal offers a broad range of written and visual scholarship and includes works done through various methods of research. We welcome conceptual, theoretical and translational applied research in the areas of fashion, style and popular culture. This journal hopes to stimulate new discussions in the fashion disciplines and to push the envelope of scholarship by welcoming new and established scholars to submit their works.
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