Invented in the Netherlands in the 1800’s with the goal of mass reproducing Indonesian batiks, Dutch wax prints didn’t hit the mark in Indonesia because of their flawed prints. However, they found an unexpected market in the Gold Coast where their irregularities were seen as a asset, making the prints look more alive.
The Technique consists of applying wax resin on the fabric before submerging it in dye. They’re 100% cotton fabrics printed in bright colors.
Dutch wax prints then grew in popularity across West Africa, and evolved with patterns and colors designed to speak to this new audience.
Today, Dutch wax prints are an integral part of many African cultures. Their patterns even form a complex language, each one carrying meaning going from daily life to political expression.
Because of their particular printing process, authentic Dutch wax prints are rare and expensive (they are to this day mainly produced in the Netherlands and in Ghana). Most of the Dutch wax prints we know are actually fakes, mass produced in Asia and coated post-printing!