Photographer: Nate Belgrave
Models: Shiya Brown, Daya Victoria, Zoralynn Aikman and Maya Amoah
Photography: Nate Belgrave (www.natebelgrave.com)
Models: Chika Oriuwa, Maia De Graff, Jessica Kasiama, Obata Oriuwa, Abby Adjekum
Currently finishing a degree in Journalism, Political science and Human rights, BATIK BOUTIK has been a creative cathartic outlet between sketching the designs, sourcing new materials and conducting the photo shoot look books. Sharing the stories behind the cloth and diving deeper into the cultural roots, the brand has been a gift of closeness to the heritage, opening a portal into the world of creative possibilities. Through sustainable practices, BATIK BOUTIK celebrates Africa using designs that are made ethically produced in Ghana. Contemporary design meets traditional West African flair to create a collection of individualistic pieces like no other; After all, BATIK BOUTIK embraces the philosophy of expressing your self as alternative, independent and an individual in a world of social norms.
We seek to change narratives and emphasizes value on the continent by working closely with artisans to create an ecosystem of global fashion that appeals to the West. With ethical trading and sustainability at our core, we just see fair trade as a given in the world of commerce and dream of the day that ethical fashion is just a norm.
BATIK BOUTIK puts ethics first and foremost, forever.
Fashion, art and design is beautiful because of the hands that make it. Unethical labor practices and wasteful, unsustainable production is simply bad fashion. And seriously bad energy. Respecting the hardworking hands who make our designs is at the core of our vision. We aim to honour these crafts by documenting and showcasing this beautiful work whenever. It’s so important to respect the process and how slow and steady is truly the ultimate win.
Our clothing is sewn in Ghana, operating out of a local factory that follows best practices in line with our vision. They are a factory partner of Ethical Apparel Africa, an ethical sourcing company that seeks out Ghanaian manufacturers committing to complete transparency towards continuous improvement on compliance.
Compliance and empowerment programs are set that enforce ethical policies and procedure at all times, through monitoring and evaluation frameworks. You can learn about them here. Workers are respected, empowered and paid above-living wages.
Our fabrics are hand-dyed in clean and safe facilities where prices are set by the contractor and we get to visit the studio and film the process sometimes too!
We are trying to hit all the bases to make change through every aspect of the business. Some of our batik is purchased from Amenuveve, a non-profit creating social and economic advancement in a village in the Volta Region called Woadze Tatoe. Through their batik centre and funding, they have been able to build a new school and provide a borehole with access to clean drinking water. They have been able to employ 120 men and women at their built batik centre and have engaged over 1041 residents with community health initiatives. You can see more about the wonderful work they are doing here.
Our wax prints are sourced in the busting local markets of Accra and we mainly order from women-owned businesses.
Did you know that according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, 46.4% of businesses in Ghana are owned by women, making it the highest percentage in the world!
At the end of day, we don’t think we need to be applauded for a fair exchange with the cultivators of our craft. It’s heartbreaking to think that in such a hyper-consumerist era, good practices continues to stand alone as a rarity. It shouldn’t be a big deal to pay people what they ask for. I dream of a day when ethical wages and sustainable practices are just the norm.
CONSCIOUS, SLOW FASHION
CONSCIOUS, SLOW FASHION
We try our best to incorporate sustainable solutions into our designs and we love getting creative with it!
We create our pieces on a made-to-order basis. This is to prevent waste and keep track of volumes that our tiny business can handle. For now, small batch collections are the solution and has allowed us to constantly experiment with new ideas and release capsule collections while simultaneously creating a culture of conscious production and slow fashion. Please bear with us as production on a single order can take up to three weeks before being sent to you. It’s possible it can come earlier than this, but please fret not! Good things take time and humans make your clothing, not robots.
WASTE NOT WANT NOT
In addition to these small batches, we do not like to waste a damn thing! We keep all our fabric scraps and use it to offer up small accessories like scrunchies, masks and tote bags. We also commission a family to make patchwork for us to make some very neat things! It feels great to keep extending the life of each element of the textile while creating new job opportunities and cool products!
Made with high-quality cotton rather than cheap materials, our clothes are built to last. Nothing should be disposable and definitely not clothing! We want you to get as many wears as physically possible with your BATIK BOUTIK!
DREAMS AND VISIONS
Some big goals will be to begin sourcing from the textile waste that has flooded Ghana. We are working on how we can start incorporating the used textiles from the West that have been dumped onto Ghana and polluting its shores into our work. We are looking at white cotton textiles to be dyed for batik and also denim waste to make some amazing new patchwork pieces! The use of plant dyes like Indigo are on our radar, you will most definitely see it in an upcoming collection!
PROCESS + HISTORY NOTES
PROCESS OF BATIK
We begin with collaboratively sketching ideas for motifs and colours that simply come up in our head and take inspiration from what we see around. Inspiration can be found everywhere. A stamp is hand-drawn and hand- carved using foam, sometimes rubber or wood.
Dyes are bought from local markets and are mixed with a skill of specific measurements and combinations of dye colours to achieve desired shade. Hues and shades can vary and this is why we inform this to our customers, given the handmade nature of this process. And that in itself is a beautiful thing! We only produce these batiks in well-ventilated and outdoor environments.
Designs are created by dipping the stamps in hot wax and then firmly placing on the Calico cloth. This process is re-applied all over the cloth in what desired order. Once the wax is cooled, it is submerged in to the dye bath and left there for as long as needed depending on the darkness of the hue. Laid out or hung to dry, we go in with a second dye bath if we need an additional layer of color. To remove the applied wax, we stir it in a large pot of boiling water sitting over a fire. Residual melted wax is never wasted. We reuse it for the next time. We have ensured our batiks are colourfast by a thorough wash of the cloth before hanging to dry.
It may surprise you to hear that the origins of batik are not African. Rather, around 2,000 years ago examples of the cloth were found in the Far and Middle East, Central Asia and India. The craft spread long the caravan trading routes between the Malay Archipelago and the Middle East. It is believed that batik first stepped onto West African soil in the mid nineteenth century by way of indentured Dutch soldiers travelling from Indonesia, carrying trunks of Javanese batiks. As they hit the markets, along with the development of technique and tribal signature in populations like the Yoruba of Nigeria, West Africans adopted it into their own garments. It is commonly passed down through families
GIFT FROM THE CULTURE
BATIK BOUTIK was born out of a keen desire to piece together all the elements: culture, creativity, community and consciousness; tying it up in one big bow. This project is purely cultural.
We are proudly BLACK-POWERed and everything about the brand is Ghanaian. I (Maya Amoah) wanted to create something that would serve as a love letter to my roots and simply having immersed myself in this world over the years has led me to a closeness with my heritage and finding ways to honour it. You will see this honouring through the names of our products based on landmarks in the country and old adages here and there. We aim to reflect diversity in our photoshoots and you will notice that the majority of our models are Black or POC. We want to challenge white-dominated fashion spaces and represent as many different bodies as we can.
APPRECIATING IS NOT APPROPRIATING
When you buy from BATIK BOUTIK you are directly supporting the culture. Our African wax print and batik clothes along with our accessories are for everyone. There is a fine but significant line between appropriation and appreciation. Here is an article that breaks it down. But the bottom line is it’s a lot about the hands that make it and most importantly, who is profiting.
At a time where many white-owned brands are taking up and dominating space in the African-made fashion industry, know that when you support us you are truly empowering and paying homage to the blueprint. Pretty much everything about our brand is Ghanaian: From the patternmaking to material sourcing and production to the Ghanaian photographers and models we contract and the packaging we buy- we try to support the Ghanaian economy every step of the way.
TRADE NOT AID
Trade not aid is the belief that if developing countries were able to trade more freely, then they would be less dependent on external aid. While international trade is often well intentioned, it is also subject to vested interests and can create a damaging culture of dependency where the recipients of aid feel disempowered and disillusioned that the only way out is to be “saved” by charity workers.
Whereas trade is the best way for developing economies to improve their economic welfare by enabling more long-term, sustainable growth opportunities. Commerce and ethical trade not only is a vehicle to permanently lift families out of poverty, it also aligns with afro-optimism that encourages investors and businesses to invest in Africa-one of the fastest-growing continents in the world.
BATIK BOUTIK seeks to change narratives and emphasizes value on the continent by working closely with artisans to create an ecosystem of global fashion. That appears to the West. With ethical trading and sustainability at our core, we just see fair trade as a given in the world of commerce and dream of the day that ethical fashion is just a norm. The African experience has a story that speaks for itself with their colourful pallet of rich vibrant cultures, yet it is a story that remains incompletely told. Institutions have offered a single lens to a continent of multiple layers- So many layers that it would make one wonder how one lens could possibly divulge the story of 54 countries and 1,500 languages all in one breath?
At BATIK BOUTIK we know the danger of a single story and aim to dismantle western constructs that perpetuate a negative portrayal of Africa and it’s people, often limiting their story to one of that you only see in the news-worthy media with overwhelming coverage of tragedy, doom and gloom. This often is a result of “hit and run” journalism where tragedy and disaster that takes place will be well-documented, but journalists will not stay long enough to cover success stories of innovation and development.
This sensationalist trope of victomhood mirrors eurocentricity, as “bad news sells well” but can (often unintentionally) perpetuate stigma when there is disproportionate emphasis on famine and lack of modern development in Africa.Whereas, there is development. Lots of it. From Accra to Abidjan, cities are brimming with beautiful beaches and hotels and tourist sightseeing that would satiate any traveller upon arrival. The food, the music, the artistic communities have significantly grown in recent years paint a picture that counters afro-pessimism with afro-optimism. Despite present issues that countries in Africa have to face, there is a cultural renaissance that is occurring in Africa, as culture is a critical motor of sustainable development for the continent.
We want to challenge these tiring stereotypes and feel that these exoticized narratives established during the era of colonialism are long overdue for an update. BATIK BOUTIK aims to articulate an alternative vision of Africa by celebrating the continent through art and fashion as a political practice.
PRESERVING THE CRAFT
We are committed to preserving these crafts through our patronage and empowerment of the communities here in Ghana, where the skill and creative talent is unmatched: innate, spiritual, carried on from generation in familial lineage.
There are many problematic facets to the second-hand clothing market, and one of them is how it has infiltrated the local market and affected the livelihood of seamstresses. The other side of the coin is that these used clothing donated from the West are more affordable and found everywhere in the market. When there is economic struggle in a country, there is clearly not a priority for the average citizen to spend money on art and these luxuries. We are proud to be a regular patron to so many of these artisans, building long-term and lasting relationships with many of these partners over the last six years.
Due to this growing interest of batik coming from both the West and more locally, we are seeing new dye houses on the market and a growing interest for African-print clothing. So many of these artistic practices have been passed down through the generations and we don’t want to ever see these beautiful arts disappear.