23 December 2023

What Is Kente Cloth Turning Into?

Ghanaian model Mx Barrony wearing a Kente skirt.

One thing I never think twice about is fashion.  I love fashion.  And when it comes to fabrics and prints, one of the most unique and popular has to be this type which comes from Ghana.

I've admired this style for so many years but have never been lucky enough to own one.  A lot of people here in Nigeria don't know what it's called, because we just refer to it as the "Ghana print" or "that Ghana fabric".  But it does have an official name, "Kente cloth".  And it's not uncommon to see Nigerians wearing Kente-inspired shoes, matching outfits or bags.

Kente-inspired shoes for men

Lately, Kente cloth has been popping up everywhere - in fashion magazines, on runways and even in my favorite songs.  It's as if Ghanaian culture is finally being celebrated by the mainstream, and it's pretty incredible to see.

Ivorinan football legend Didier Drogba wearing Kente cloth.

As an African, it's very inspiring to what other people embracing Kente, because it shows that we are all connected, no matter where we're from.  When I see celebrities and models wearing Kente clothes, I can't help but feel a connection.  It's like we're all part of the same story and histories, and even though we may come from different places, we can still find common ground through our love of this beautiful, vibrant fabric.

Prominent American politicians, including then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi,
wearing Kente cloth in honor of George Floyd in 2020.

Over the years, Kente cloth has taken on a life of its own.  It's gone from being this old-school fabric worn only by Ghanaian royalty to being incorporated into all sorts of modern designs.  Its come up is similar to denim, which started off being used for a specific purpose but can now be found in all sorts of clothes, accessories and home decor.

Kente cloth has a long history and deep cultural significance in West Africa.  It's not just a fabric - it's a symbol of identity, culture and tradition.

It's believed that Kente cloth originated with the Ashanti people of Ghana in the 17th century.  The word "Kente" means "Basket", which is a nod to the woven nature of the fabric.  In Ghana, it's often worn during important events like weddings, funerals and festivals.

Within these ceremonies, Kente symbolizes things such as wealth, respect and family ties.  For example, at weddings the bride and groom may be wrapped in Kente cloth to symbolize the union of their families, and at funerals, it's used to honor the deceased and pay tribute to their life.  Each color and pattern have a specific meaning during these occasions.

Mermaid-style Kente wedding dress

In the fashion world, modern designers have taken Kente cloth and run with it.  They are finding all sorts of creative ways to incorporate this traditional fabric into their designs.  Some are using it for bold statements, while others are about those subtle details, like trims or accents.  Can you believe that Kente cloth is making its way into ball gowns, tuxedos and even wedding dresses?  It's having a major fashion moment, and I'm here for it!

Kente cloth made the cover of Vogue, as worn by
American activist/poet Amanda Gorman in 2021

Kente cloth isn't just a piece of fabric; it's a cultural phenomenon.  From its rich history in West Africa to its modern-day takeover in the fashion world, it is a symbol of pride and identity.

The late Virgil Abloh utilized Kente cloth as part of
his Autumn/Winter 2021 collection for Louis Vuitton.

Kente cloth is very special not just to Ghanaians but other African countries and parts of the diaspora as well.  For example, it is highly respected and appreciated in Nigeria.  So whether you are rocking Kente at a wedding, funeral or on the runway, remember that you're not just wearing cloth.  You're wearing a piece of history, a splash of tradition and a whole lot of style.