How Nigeria’s fashion industry is driving the renaissance of the Akwa-Ocha fabric

Nigeria’s fashion has evolved beyond wrappers over the waist or torsos to great fashion pieces with an endearing global appeal and we are here for all of it at Bolakoka. There was once a time when indigenous fabrics were just occasionally remembered for weddings, chieftaincies or funeral ceremonies, and every other day would be for other types of imported clothing that were deemed regular. With the passage of time, our indigenous textiles were left behind in fashion statements and runways until a renaissance started with the Adire and Aso Oke fabrics. Today, the rest of Nigeria’s indigenous textiles are now making their way powerfully to the runways and into contemporary clothing. It is important to note that Nigeria’s indigenous textiles are no longer restricted to their places of origin but have now become pan-Nigerian and are getting embraced around the globe, as it should be! The Akwa Ocha fabric which serves as the cultural identity of the Igbo-speaking part of Nigeria’s Delta was at a point becoming extinct as chronicled in 2019 by BBC Africa at an interview with a cross-section of weavers from Ubulu-uku, the town known for weaving the Akwa Ocha fabric in Delta State. Hearing Madam Christiana Ugbuaja, an Akwa-Ocha weaver speak was really heart-melting and it showed the determination of the women in sustaining the heritage of the Akwa-Ocha textile.

“Dis awa village Ubulu-Uku, na Akwa-Ocha dem take know am and awa cloth no go die” – Christiana Ugbuaja

These indigenous textiles were used primarily for traditional occasions and have become exhaustive in their use for weddings, especially. With the wealth of creativity going on in Nigeria’s international fashion scene, Akwa Ocha no longer stands the risk of becoming extinct, it is bouncing back beautifully with pomp and pageantry.

At Bolakoka, we believe now more than ever that African fabrics mean business and the possibilities are endless. This prestigious and revered fabric from Anioma land in Asaba, Delta state is evolving beyond use as wrappers and blouses to well-laid trousers, perfectly structured tops, jackets and lots more. The beauty of this move is that these pieces are incorporating all the characteristics that make the Akwa-Ocha fabric special; the running holes and the frilled edges in addition to the perfect texture which works for every where you would imagine wearing normal suits and jackets to. In fact, you do not need an occasion before you wear Akwa-Ocha anymore because you become the occasion and cynosure of all eyes when you show up at outings or board rooms dressed in Akwa-Ocha pieces like these ones…

It can also give chic confidence to the wearer as it does the strength suitable for a corporate suit! Having an Akwa Ocha fabric in pants will be a corporate casual alternative to denim trousers, but not just that, wearing Akwa Ocha as a form of trousers will not only reduce the amount of times you have to wear denim but with every move you make in an Akwa-Ocha piece, you make a statement that tells the story and history of this fabric from Anioma land. It carries a depth that is certain to be a conversation starter because people will want to know more about it. Everyone knows denim but they don’t know Akwa-Ocha yet, however, when it is worn as a pair of trousers people will most likely ask questions and that is what we are rooting for – taking our fabric stories beyond cultural identifiers in Nigeria to global acceptability.

The men might doubt the inclusion of the Akwa-Ocha fabric in contemporary male fashion, but Frank Aghuno gives us a great unisex showcase of this fabric with his free spirits collection made of tunics with long and short cutting-edge tops and skirts. Aghuno states that…

Akwa-Ocha, the cloth, which is hand-woven by women, is very strong that it can last for hundreds of years.

A major peculiarity of Akwa Ocha is in the gentle fringes which add movement to any garment made from the fabric. The Akwa Ocha fringes are not just for fringe’s sake, rather the shredded detail serve as a marker of storied cultures, a signifier of sustainability and a tribute to the heritage of the Akwa-Ocha textile.

The Akwa-Ocha fabric comes as a set of 5 pieces (5 yards) in a pack and we are making it accessible from as low as 1 piece (1 yard) measuring 75 inches by 20 inches. When you do the math, you will see that what 1 yard of Akwa Ocha fabric will give you in surface area (75 x 20 = 1,875) is more than what you will get from any other white fabric. Also, with this fabric you are preserving the textile crafts in Nigeria and becoming a champion of sustainable, ethical and eco fashion, saving our landfills from fast fashion!

We look forward to the fashion pieces you will create for yourself or your fashion brand consumers with our Akwa Ocha fabrics in store. Shopping the Akwa Ocha fabric is easy with no waiting time when you check for the available fabric designs at our webshop here

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