Category Archives: Paris

African Fabrics in Paris

While in Paris a couple of weeks ago I was determined to source out the Veritable Dutch Wax Process African prints I had seen over at Christine’s house, and of course many other places. Christine told me she had gotten hers at the African Barbes area in Paris, so off I went, first day there, to find some. I found a particularly wonderful shop at the point of the convergence of two streets, Sonna African Textiles. A large operation, it has locations in Paris, London, Antwerp, Accra, and Washington. You probably know this kind of fabric – more notable versions that Americans are aware are show dollar bills or President Obama. The prints are splashy, imaginative, and bold.

I was totally thrilled by what I found. It was really hard to choose from the array: the fabric comes in 6 meter lengths, labeled as Genuine Dutch wax, and price varies by quality. You could get pieces for €20 (about $30) up to €80 ($120). The less expensive lengths might have poor print registration, fewer threads per inch, less trendy designs. I noticed in one shop they sold by the kilo – the more expensive fabrics are actually heavier. I was actually restricted by weight myself, hating heavy luggage, so I only bought 3 pieces to bring home.

Around the corner I found a shop with the block wax prints but also a highly polished cotton brocade fabric called “Bazin”. It begins as a fine cotton damask woven in (I believe) Belgium, imported into various African countries where it is dyed (sometimes flat color, sometimes tie dyed) and sold for formal wear. I saw a man dressed in an elegant long tunic and pants in a pale mauve Bazin and wished I could have photographed him. Having hit my weight limit, I didn’t purchase any of that but observed it was sold either in 6 meter lengths, or by the kilo for other cut lengths.

I could not find much information beyond what my eyes told me, when looking later online, but was confirmed in my thinking that the high polish was due to a pounding process (although I wonder if some of it is calendared these days.