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How Chinese merchants almost killed kampala –George Ayoola

George Ayoola is the creative designer of Eyuks Kampala. He is a professional fabrics and textiles designer. A Business Administration graduate, rather than chase after elusive jobs, he tapped into this artistic side to make a living for himself. His designs are on every major Nigerian designer line from chiffon to silk. Saturday Sun spoke to him in Lagos recently.

Can you throw light on different types and techniques of fabric design?

To a layman, it is adire. But adire is tie and dye, it is a Yoruba word, Adi (tie) re (dye). It could be a little bit confusing. But let me explain it to the best of my ability. There is another aspect of Adire called batik. We call it wax resistance and unlike adire, you make use of either thread, rubber or whatever to hold the design. But when it comes to batik, we have two types. We have the freehand and  the stencil, which is a readymade pattern.

As doe free hand, you use your hand to draw the pattern on the fabric.You get foam and cut it to the form of a pencil and the pencil is what you use to draw on the fabric.You dip the foam inside the wax and draw on the fabric. Wherever the wax touches the fabric, it is either white or it retains the initial colour. When you put it into dye, the colour won’t penetrate where the dye is, so the exposed area will take in the dye. In tie and dye, wherever you tie, the colour or dye will not enter that particular place. In stencil design, you dip the foam inside the wax and put it on the fabric, so the exposed part can retain whichever colour you want.

Is Kampala the general name?

In Nigeria, kampala is the general name. Under it, we have batik, marble design, eleko. There is also needle and machine works.

How can one sustain and care for dyed fabrics?

Do not wash kampala fabrics with detergent. Use bar soap and try not to scrub hard when you launder. Do not put Kampala with other clothes inside a washing machine, wash Kampala separately because when you buy a Kampala newly it is likely to run but it is not going to fade. That is the first washing. It is advisable you don’t wash it with other materials in the washing machine. After washing, be careful with the draining, follow the manual’s instruction.

How do you choose the colour and print pattern for your collection?

For example, if you come to me to do a cloth for you and you are out of colour, I will look at your complexion. Some people are fair complexioned and they want a loud colour, that is not good.  When someone is fair, cool colours are okay. When the individual is dark, I go bright on them.

How long does it take to do a five-yard fabric?

Under Batik, we have two types. The stamping is faster than freehand. When you bring a design to me and it needs the  stamping technique, it is faster and you can get it in no time. Also, it depends on the seasons; rainy or dry seasons. During the dry season, fabric design is faster  unlike the rainy seasons when drying fabrics becomes an issue.

When you are designing, what do you have in mind?

As for stencil which is called stamping, you are limited in designs. But in freehand, you are not. If I’m not given a particular design and I am asked to do just a good design, I think about the person’s aura, attitude, complexion, work etc.A lot of things come into play as it will influence the creativity I wish to showcase in that particular fabric. If you are not creative, you will be limited in our line of work. In the art of fashion you must be creative, it is not enough to learn a skill.

As a fabric designer which fabrics are easier and which are more difficult to work with?

One thing about Kampala or Adire batik, so far the material is 100 percent cotton, it is okay for designing.

What are the challenges faced by tie and dye experts?

The issue is that the fabric is not produced locally. The people who import it, we are at their mercy and at the mercy of the exchange rate. It is what they buy that they will sell to us. When I started this business, imported chiffon was N250 or N300, two years ago. Now it is over N1000. Another challenge we have  is that the Chinese will come here, take away a sample, go back to their country and mass produce it. That almost killed kampala two years ago. The product they produced hardly last but they flooded the market with them. Apart from the fabric, the chemical we use is also imported. What we buy for N300 is now N500. That is why Kampala price is almost like that of lace, Kampala used to be a fabric for the masses, but now its prices are competing with lace. Kampala now goes for N6000 unlike before when you could get it for N3, 500 or N2000.

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Editor, Online: Ikenna Emewu
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