Vlisco recently celebrated 170 years of textile printing history in grand style. The 170th Anniversary was a beautiful cooperation between Vlisco, Helmond Gemeente Museum and of course the Helmond city, the birthplace of Vlisco, where its factory dominates the town’s landscape.
Founded in 1846 by Pieter Fentener van Vlissingen, Vlisco adapted its original batik fabrics to the markets of West and Central Africa where the business grew with input on local tastes from its trading partners.
The secret of Vlisco’s remarkable longevity lies in the nature of the wax printing process where the irregular removal of the wax results in every yard of printed cloth being slightly different from the next. The differences are subtle but recognisable to the millions of African women who are connoisseurs in African prints. Every competitor tries to copy Vlisco designs but none achieve the true, natural beauty of the wax process.
The anniversary celebration featured a special exhibition in the Helmond Gemeente Museum, a Fashion Show and dinner. The exhibition which runs until March 18th, 2017 is called 1:1/UN a UN and it highlights the remarkable relationship between Helmond and Africa, between manufacturer and customer and between the Vlisco designs and the stories around them. Alongside 1:1/UN a UN the Gemeentemuseum Helmond also exhibited the work of the British/Nigerian artist, Yinka Shonibare MBE, who often use Vlisco’s versatile and colourful textile designs for his stunning art.
Among those present were a number of Vlisco principal agents from Togo, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, USA and the EU (Holland, UK, Belgium, France and Germany). Vlisco currently has presence in 88 countries.
African consumers and traders have handed down their Vlisco fabric and the myths around the designs to their daughters and grand-daughters. Vlisco has asked 8 of these women from 6 different countries to be the faces of the 2016 marketing campaign, including the world famous, triple Grammy winning, African singer, Angelique Kidjo. As David Suddens, CEO of Vlisco Group said: “The dynamism that has driven Vlisco is the dynamism of the African woman.”
At the main event, Anita Erskine, a popular radio presenter/TV host in Ghana peppered the audience with her trademark positive energy and joyful enthusiasm. The duo of Angelique Kidjo (Benin) and Afia Mala (Togo) also thrilled the audience with some popular numbers from their music tracks.
– Bob Hensen & Anthony Aranse.