Vlisco has long been a staple in the West and Central African markets but how did Vlisco get there?

Today we take a look at how Vlisco was founded and how they came to one of the largest fabric designers and distributors in the world.

Humble Beginnings 

The Vlisco group was founded in 1846 by a man named Pieter Fentener Van Vlissingen when he purchased a textile printing factory based in Helmond in the Netherlands.

In the beginning, the factory produced bedspreads, handkerchiefs and furniture fabrics but soon Vlissingen would turn his hand to creating imitation Batik fabric after he had heard about demand for cheap and affordable fabrics in the Dutch East Indies.

Roller printing would play a key role here as Vlissingen could produce the fabric cheaper and quicker than any of the local fabric merchants in the area. This gave Vlissingen a great advantage and affordable fabrics were born.

African markets

Eventually, the Dutch East Indes banned the sale of imitation Batiks, seemingly because it was putting a lot of people out of work by being undercut on price and sometimes quality.

Vlisco main building

Vlisco Headquarters.

In the year 1852 hand printed Vlisco fabrics were used as bartering offerings on the East Indies trade routes when the caravans stopped over in West Africa.

During this time the caravans were also carrying Vlisco fabrics headed for the Indonesian markets.

Vlisco fabrics became ever more popular due to Ghanian soldiers who had been serving in the Royal Netherlands East Indes Army and had returned home between 1837 and 1872.

Blooming African Textile trade

By the time that the 20th century had hit Central and West Africa had a booming fabric trade that was seeing vlisco being imported at an unprecedented rate. Wax Hollandais were being adapted to local tastes and gained even more traction in local markets.

During the 2nd world war, all shipments to Africa had stopped due to wartime constraints. This meant that the African markets had been cut off and starved from the fabrics that they so desperately craved.

In 1945 Vlisco managed to send a shipment of fabric call the Six Bougies and it was an immediate success.

On the back of there latest successful shipment, Vlisco decided to brand all fabrics with the words “Guaranteed Dutch Wax” as that had become the name used in most of Africa for the Fabrics.

Vlisco Moving Forward 

Vlisco is still the largest supplier of fabrics for every good reason.

Now comprising of 4 brands (Vlisco, Woodin, Uniwax and GTP) Vlisco continue to grow and target different styles under the different brands the company carry.

For Example, Woodin is designed and crafted in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and targeted at the growing middle class.

Vlisco fabric will continue to be a staple in the Central and West African fabric sectors. Changing with the times and launching up to 4 new fabrics a year for each brand there is no doubt that VLisco will be at the top of the game when it comes to fabrics for years to come.