Textile Highlight | Kente Cloth
Native to the Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Kente cloth (meaning “basket”) is a traditional fabric made of cotton and silk fabric strips interwoven together that has been traced back to West African kingdoms that thrived between 300 A.D. and 1600 A.D. It is a sacred cloth worn by those of high prestige and although it has emanated into the modern world of fashion, its powerful history has not been forgotten. A variety of subgroups with Ghanaian ancestry have adapted their own versions of kente cloth but the iconic geometric shapes and bold colors remain uniform. The weaving apparatus includes a wooden loom, a set of heddles attached to treadles with pulleys/spools inserted, and each piece symbolizes respect. Ghanaian factories are actually the prime exporters of the yarn used to make kente and its quality is representative of its prestige, with silk being the most prestigious.
Though traditionally worn for special social or religious occasions, kente cloth’s richness in color and its ability to demand attention has granted its ability to infiltrate the fashion world with guns blazing. Worn by celebrities like Elle Varner and seen in street wear fashion, the use of kente cloth should not be overlooked as its proliferation has not desecrated this historically rich fabric.