Sweet, Sweet Senegal
Oh sweet, sweet, Senegal, where do I even begin? From the moment I stepped off the plane, I was in love. The vibrant sound of Naija music, the beautiful, friendly people, spicy food, and abundance of nearby islands were a joy to explore. Needless to say, this Isle Empress found a little piece of Heaven on Earth, in the heart of West Africa.
My love for Africa started many moons ago. I first traveled there in 2001. I was only 19. I traveled by boat from Spain to Morocco and my amazing adventures began. I decided I was on a mission to see all the World Wonders. In 2014, I traveled to Egypt and that trip exceeded my expectations tenfold. Then in 2015, I worked my way back to Morocco, but I still felt the need to get deeper into the Motherland. My dream has always been to travel to East Africa, Kenya, to be specific. It remains one of the last few countries left on my bucket list. Kenya, however, hasn’t been in the cards for me just yet.
Instead, Senegal kept presenting itself to me.
To be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about Senegal before going. Like most of my travels, I go blindly, and roam aimlessly. Having a few links in the capital, Dakar, I made my way to Senegal last fall. I met up with two girl friends who had been living in Cairo. One only stayed one week, the other stayed two, and I stayed for a month. Everyday I loved Senegal more and more. Once I got familiar with how to get around, and started picking up on the local dialect, Wolof, I was making friends everywhere I went.
I roamed the city and beaches during the day, and danced the nights away. We took a boat to a little Surfer island called Ngor. Here we could explore the whole island by foot. I quickly made friends with the local boys who made us traditional Senegalese Tea and cooked us some fresh caught muscles on a little mini fire pit. They kept the fire going with a snorkel flipper. We were invited to their drum circle and ended our day with the moving sound of West African drumming, as we experienced the most beautiful sunset across the Atlantic Ocean.
Another day we went to a different island called Îles des Madeleines where we had the whole place to ourselves. We swam in crystal clear, fresh/salt water mixed pools and adventured around the whole island barefoot. That day we found the most unique baobab trees. These are magical enormous oaks that appear to have been there since the beginning of time. Some of them are over 6000 years old! The baobab tree is revered in Senegal as the nation’s symbol, and they are just mind bogglingly beautiful.
The list goes on
There are so many amazing things about Senegal and so many experiences we shared there, I could write a whole book about it. Like our very intense adventure to Goreé Island, where we learned about the incredible history of the House of the Slaves. Then there was our absolutely hilarious mission to Lake Retba or Lac Rose (meaning pink lake) where we had a dire need to blow up a giant unicorn floaty for our photo op (the floaty couldn’t even fit in our taxi after all that). Another was our endless journey North where we visited the old French Capital, Saint Louis. All of these are magical memories that I’ll never forget.
Senegal has this laid back easy going vibration. It is quiet and peaceful in the day and vibrant and alive at night. The city is urban yet rustic. There is a kindliness in people you don’t often find elsewhere. Everyone I met was very friendly, helpful, and kind, ethnic and indigenous, but very hip with class, style, and fashion.
Senegal has profound history that is rich in culture with traditional West African roots. Most of the people are devoted Muslims, but Senegal is also very diverse. There are many refugees that have moved to Senegal seeking peace from neighboring African countries that are at war. There are also many European and American expats. There is a beautiful blend of exotic sights and sounds, smells and feels. Sensory overload at its best.
Since Senegal was colonized by the French, there are so many amazing French bakeries, with the best fresh pasties. I consumed them daily. And oh, the savory spices, don’t even get me started!
These are only a few of the reasons I love it there, but the list goes on. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Senegal. I left a piece of my heart there and long for the day I can return to find it.
Story behind the wax
My love for all ethnic textiles and fabrics began a long time ago, but it wasn’t until the past few years I have been more exposed and attracted to the Wax Prints. The textile known as Ankara Wax Print was formerly called Dutch Wax and it originated in the Netherlands. These fabric are made by using an Indonesian wax-resist dyeing technique called Batik. This fabric with its prints and motifs was made originally for the Indonesian market but quickly became more popular in West Africa. These fabrics are now known as African Prints and are worn by women across West Africa, representing style and status.
I started acquiring Ankara Wax Prints during my travels over the past few years, and I created the Isle Empress’s first Ankara Collection back in 2016. Before I left for my trip to Senegal I had shipped all my fabrics to my leather worker in Thailand. My plan was to go there after my travels to Africa. I was planning to pick up custom orders and develop my next collection.
Originally, I had no intentions on having anything fabricated in Senegal, but as I was treasure seeking at the (market) Marché Sandaga, I was given a lead from the locals to a clothing factory. It was the most magical place I could dream of! Three stories of countless rooms filled with Ankara Wax Prints stacked from ceiling to floor. There were tons of amazing tailors creating the most beautiful works of wearable art. There were pre-made clothes, custom-made clothes, and wall to wall fabric available for me to choose from for my creative collections.
Back in 2005 I designed a clothing collection using traditional Batik fabrics from Indonesia, but as styles and trends are constantly changing, I chose to pursue the timeless jewelry imports instead. Now 12 yearts later, I felt it was time for me to start designing again.
For the love of Africa, my hope, by designing the Ankara Collection and through the universal platform of modern day fashion, I hope to promote the African culture. By exposure, I can stimulate dialog, creating awareness and do my little part to help boost their economy by fairly trading with the local artists as much as possible. My goal is to start, or link with a non-profit organization in Africa, that will allow me to contribute a percentage of my sales to the African people. I am in the beginning stages of looking for a non-profit, so if you are familiar with one or more, please contact me.
My only wish is, by crossing cultures, that I am creating something beautiful, for anyone and everyone who adores it. Below are just a few of my new Ankara creations. They are all handmade and one-of-a-kind.
Fit for an Empress.
Crop Tops and Blouses
Having my new clothing designs already sketched out, I thought since I had a few weeks of travel left in Senegal, I would see if the factory could produce a few of my designs. I purchased more Kente and Dashiki Wax Print fabrics at the factory and found two different fabricators who could create my visions. Below are some sexy ladies’ crop tops and blouses from the new 2018 Ankara Wax Print Collection.
Get a hold on this
I started the Ankara Collection last year with the intention of creating some timeless universal clutches and handbags that would be stylish and practical. I have now upgraded the quality and have added a little Bohemian touch to my collection with new tassel and fringe leather designs.
Wax Print Handbags
Just for Kicks
My leather fabricator in Thailand specializes in Moccasin boots. He makes them with his traditional Thai Hill Tribe textiles. Last year I asked him to create me a sample using my Wax Prints fabric. The designs came out beautifully, so I started offering custom orders. A client can choose the length, leather or suede color, and Wax Print of choice.
Below are a few samples. Contact me to customize your own pair!
Wax Print Moccasin Leather Boots
Since I clearly haven’t given you enough items to choose from, I thought I’d make some fun Wax Print Sandals to add to the collection. They are now available at wholedsale.
Along with the new Ankara Collections, I picked up many new global treasures while in Africa, like new Maasai statement jewelry, Dashiki sarongs and Mauritania tribal silver, are all available now on my Etsy shop.
I am also building a new shop on a similar style website, Afrikrea.com. This online company is based out of France, and offers exclusively African inspired products, so it is a perfect platform to sell my Ankara Collections! Be sure to check them out and see what other products I offer, as well as finding many other amazing designers!
Yellow Maasai statement Earrings, Wax Print Bangles and Mauritania Silver Statement Rings
My love for Africa has only deepened after my trip to Senegal. I am already itching to get back there, but with so many amazing countries in the world, I am not sure where the wind will blow me next. Maybe Senegal, or maybe I’ll be lucky enough to make it to Kenya, Inshallah (God willing).
For now, Empresses, I’ve stocked up on plenty of Wax Prints as well as other African textiles, so I will be continuing to make new, one-of-a-kind designs, so stay tuned!
Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to contact me for inquires or those custom orders!
Until next time Empresses, travel wide, and travel wise.