Sunday, February 11, 2007

African Waistcoat Company

Started by Calum Robertson in 2003 at Candem, London the African Waistcoat Company combines the finesse of Savile Row's craftsmanship and exotic Nigerian Aso Oke fabrics, to make fantastic waistcoats. Aso Oke Fabric is a hand loomed fabric worn by both women and men of the Yoruba people of south-western Nigeria.

The African Waistcoat Company website also features an article written by William Georgiades of the New York Sun ".... Located in a passageway off a narrow road, The African Waistcoat Company headquarters sits between antique shops and stalls in a former cobbler’s shop. Inside the space is both tight and expansive — there’s little room to move but the colors on display vibrate.

The process of having a waistcoat made begins with a measuring followed by some rather serious decision-making, as dozens of patterns and swatches, of increasing vibrancy are brought out. For now all waistcoats are custom made, though in the future there are plans for off-the rack items. African beads and cufflinks which recall Ghanaian Adinkra designs are also available, along with textiles.

Once the decision has been made, the materials and measurements are constructed within two to three weeks for an average price of about $300.

What makes these waistcoats particularly interesting is the quality of the materials and their construction. All of the items are made from Nigerian handwoven aso oke cloth. Aso oke connotes high status among the Yoruba peoples of southwestern Nigeria, a part of the world Mr. Robertson has come to love since his first visit there in 1974. After his first visit, Mr. Robertson returned every year for five years to visit friends and returned in 1999 and again last September when the idea came to him to open a shop. He looks forward to returning once a year to keep his stock updated..."

Photos courtesy of African Waistcoat Company website.

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