There are few techniques of making clothing in the world older than Batik. From as far back at the 4th Century B.C. it was used in Ancient Egypt and eventually became common in China, India, Japan, and West Africa, among the Yoruba and Wolof people.
The Batik Wax Print Technique
The technique, which involves using wax (or, in Africa, Cassava starch) to create patterns and resist dyes before cleansing it with boiling water and adding successive layers, was one of the earliest methods to produce colourful, patterned fabrics in a variety of designs. But it is Java, in Indonesia, that developed the craft to the highest complexity and quality and gave it the name Batik. Key to the Indonesian practice was the invention of a type of wax stylus called a Canting, which allowed for far more intricate and high-quality patterns. The design has become so popular in Indonesia that it has transcended the many ethnic and religious divides in the nation, and has become an item of national and cultural significance.
West African Designs Are In Vogue
While the technique is still practised today in an almost identical way to hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, it’s also inspiring designers producing clothing with more modern techniques. The ability to create patterns more complex than before, combined with Java‘s rich flora that allowed a huge variety of colourful dyes, led to increasingly bold and bright designs. Those dyes were one of the reasons that the island was colonised by the Dutch, and Vlisco, a company founded in the Netherlands, has long taken the designs of Batik to inspire a range of printed fabrics, most recently in their ‘Java’ collection.
Since then, Batik has become an iconic style as its popularity spread throughout Asia and South and West Africa; a perfect example of an ancient technique going on to produce one of the most solid but still ever-changing fashions. Its huge popularity throughout the world means that the style now is often produced by printing, but with some manufacturers aware of the roots and cultural importance, these can still be of the highest quality and up to the latest trends in design and style.