Nigeria, in Batik Colours

THISDAY Newspaper-Mary Ekah

She is devoted to making Nigerian local fabrics accepted worldwide. So, she has travelled widely around Africa and beyond, promoting the local batik (tie and dye), discovering latest innovations to make them better and well accepted. During the just concluded Easter weekend, an exhibition of her current works took place at the City Mall.
Josephine Ijie, Chief Executive Officer of Exclusive Wardrobe, a batik and apparel enterprise, which utilizes indigenous and local techniques to produce good quality batik materials in beautiful varied patterns and colours, is always very proud to say that her Batik is 100 percent made in Nigeria.
The textile designer said the exhibition of tie and dye and batik in combination, which is her first exhibition in Nigeria, aims at showcasing colours in Africa and different kinds of colours that are accepted in Nigeria and internationally.
“We are showcasing various things that can be done with tie and dye and Batik in Nigeria. We are featuring designs like table cloths, hand napkins and whatever that can be made to stand out with batik and tie and dye fabrics,” Ijie said just before the exhibition was declared open.
It is her first time of exhibiting her designs in Nigeria, even though she has done it in a couple of countries outside Nigeria. “It was good and widely accepted but this is the first time we are doing it in Nigeria to tell Nigerians that whatever we have here should be accepted and reckoned with,” she noted.
For her, Batik making is an art because they are hand made. “These are things that the Europeans see as masterpiece – design on fabrics and so on. And when we talk of art exhibition, we are also talking about what we do with our hands. This is why we are saying that the batik and tie and dye designs that we are showcasing are part of art”.
She said that although the art form of batik is very intricate, the tools that are used are still very simple. She noted however that the number of colours in our designs represent how many times it was immersed in the bath and how many times wax had to be applied and removed, adding, “our multi-colour batik represent a lot more work than single or two-colour pieces. Numerous dye processes are usually reflected in the pieces of our batik”.
Ijie, with her designs, is trying to tell people that these are pieces of art that people can admire and have and so her fabric exhibition featured a lot of designs, especially with cotton fabrics. One remarkable thing about the fabric exhibition was the fact that the textile / fashion designer also displayed batik motifs in linen and chiffons.
“A lot of Nigerians believe that you can only dye guinea brocades. But this time around, we are coming out with pure cotton fabrics, I mean hundred per cent fabrics and then Italian and Irish linen in different classes and colours. And with these, a lot of people would know that we can dye linen and chiffon fabrics,” Ijie said.
She said the exhibition, which kicked off on April 1 and lasted till April 4, at the City Mall, Onikan Lagos, was purposely planned for that period. “This is a period of holiday and we want people to come in and see what we have so that they can have a feel of Africa. Easter season is a period when people have time to go out for shopping and relaxation and so I think this is the right period to actually capture people’s interests. We are not just looking at the Nigerian and African colours, but we are also looking at international colours because there are colours that are not accepted abroad but are accepted in Nigeria. So this time around, we are combining everything so that people can have colours that are accepted both at home and abroad,” she explained.
Exclusive Wardrobe was established about 10 years ago and since then, it has been doing well trying to showcase what we can do with our hands, especially in terms of fabrics. “Generally, Exclusive Wardrobe is a textile and apparel company. We are used to showcasing what we can do with tie and dye and batik in Africa and we have been having exhibitions all over the world,” Ijie said.
Its latest innovation right now is the dying of linen into batik; the dying of chiffon into batik and the dying of pure cotton fabrics without starch into batik. “What we are used to at the moment are fabrics that are dyed with starch so that they become very hard and not so flexible for us to do beautiful things from them. So we are coming out with fabrics that are very flexible, which we can make wedding gowns and shirts from. Another innovation is that we are going to correct the impression that the colours and dyes in tie and dye or batik made in Nigeria usually run. Exclusive has made batik, which has been tested and found not to run. So, the batik and tie and dye we produce in Exclusive Wardrobe do not run at all, even if they are washed with machines.”, the designer disclosed proudly.
Exclusive wardrobe which combines the production of designs and batik, Ijie said, is trying to see how it can design fabrics and also make them into apparel. She noted that as a designer, she knows fully well how to design a particular fabric for a particular style and purpose. ‘It has not been easy combining both but I try as much as I can to put the two together and see how they go and it has been wonderful,” she said.
For her, the challenge has been that a lot of Nigerians do not believe in the ‘made in Nigeria’ fabrics, adding that part of the reason for the exhibition was to create awareness about Nigerian products.
“We discovered that a lot of Nigerians do not even know anything about tie and dye or batik, how to use them and what to use them for. But when we showcase outside the shores of the country, people appreciate these things more but Nigerians do not, simply because it is hand made and it is made in Nigeria. So, what we are trying to showcase is like re-branding Nigeria. We are trying to tell people that what we have are things we should reckon with and hold in very high esteem. Instead of allowing them to be taken outside the country, we should appreciate them and use them here,” she advised.
Her products, Ijie said, are quite unique in the sense that she uses lots of bright colours that are very attractive especially to middle aged and young people. But this, she said, does not mean she does not have designs for the old schools. “We do have things for the old schools but then I can tell you a lot of old schools want to look young and attractive, so what we have are suitable for them too.”
While a lot of attention is paid to what people need, the fabrics are also designed to make sure that something good comes out of Nigeria. To this end, she has embarked on trainings in different countries like Sierra Leone, Ghana, India, Mali and South Africa, while also exhibiting her designs. “I have discovered that each country has its own colours but right now, what I am doing is combining the colours of all these countries to make unique designs,” she said.
To her customers, she said they should look out for new designs from Exclusive Wardrobe and for the would-be customers, she said, “with Exclusive Wardrobe colours, you can never go wrong because we are giving out fabrics that can stand the test of time. These are purely African fabrics, 100 per cent cotton and we are proud to say that our fabrics and designs are hundred per cent made in Nigeria.”
She said Batiks are exclusively hand-made with the finest cotton fabric and are generally composed of geometric forms and traditional patterns, adding that her innovations in batik patterns are endless, as there are so many varieties available to choose from. “At Exclusive Wardrobe, we passionately work our way into the cotton fabrics with our designs while using fast dye stuff that adds value to the cotton fabrics,” she added.
Ijie, however, advised that people should be wary of how they handle tie and dye fabrics. “Be sure to line-dry batik in shady areas and not in direct sunlight as hash chemical detergents, dryers and drying of fabric in the sun may fade the colours on the fabric.
And, in spite of the hard work that goes into the fabrics, their prices are quite reasonable in that one can get a fabric at N1, 000.00 at least. Describing the responses to the fabric exhibition as wonderful, she said, “people have kept coming to examine and buy what we have here. I guess they have not really seen such bright colours in Batiks before. So, it is something that is very amazing to them and I am really surprised that people are coming in here to commend my works and I feel great and encouraged to do better.”
As shoppers made purchases at the exhibition stand, Ijie was on hand to give professional advise on what combination will go with other fabrics and what style will suit a particular design.
“I am a fashion designer and so I know what design of fabric suits a particular style. This is what a lot of people do not know. All they want is to just get a fabric because they like it even when they do not know how best to put it to use. So it is better you let them know that even if they are in love with a particular fabric, it may not be suitable for them or for that particular style they have in mind.”
Ijie plans to have three exhibitions in Nigeria before the end of the year. In past years, she had exhibited in several foreign countries but at the moment, she is coming back home with all the experiences she has garnered all along to create awareness for her designs and promote Nigeria in full batik colours.


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