Each Adire pattern connotes a meaning, tells a story – Cynthia Tule-Okochu, Adirelounge CEO

Christine Onwuachumba


Cynthia Tule-Okochu is the Creative Director of Adirelounge. She was part of the Heineken Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2016 Campaign tagged “Connecting the Dots”.

She also won the ACE award for the best indigenous textile designer. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Benin (2007). She attended the Martwayne Dynamiques Fashion School and worked in a financial institution for two years before launching out.

Saturday Sun spoke to her at her workshop in Lagos, recently.

When did you decide to explore the world of textile manufacturing?

The idea for Adirelounge started during my NYSC year in Abeokuta, Ogun State. I fell in love with the fabric I had seen my Mum wear when I was a child. My inspiration I got from our Nigerian culture, heritage, my environment and colours. There is a large market for indigenous fabrics like Adire and it is a great way to promote Nigerian culture.

Why isn’t Adire as popular as Ankara or is it?

Over time Ankara has become a popular fabric worn by Africans. We have come to accept Ankara fabrics as ours, because it has a rich West African heritage and has become popular among us. It originally came from an Indonesian cloth named batik java.

The Ankara fabric is produced in bulk, have colourful designs and cheaper, with less quality variations, it became popular than Adire fabric.

The production of Adire fabrics caused it too; lower quality of dyes and fabrics used by artisans, which cause the fabrics to fade and tear easily have also not helped matters. Innovation of Adire designs has been obsolete. Ankara has invaded the fashion scene of Africa and has taken the edge over Adire fabric.

However, the popularity and proliferation of the Ankara fabrics seems to have concealed its origin, even from the people that patronize and believed it to be a traditional fabric of Africa.

But with what Adirelounge is doing now, we are producing innovative designs in Adire; with good quality cotton count fabrics and good quality dyes that won’t make the fabrics fade at all.

Run us through the process of Adire dyeing?

There are two major process of making the Adire fabrics. They are: Tie and Dye also known as Adire Oniko. Tying the fabric with a twine to create the desired patterns, which acts as a resist pattern, and it is then dipped in the dye bath.

The other process is the batik process; heating wax on a hot plate, then applying the melted wax with a foam sponge on the fabric creates each one of a kind batik fabric. Once the wax resist outline is completed, the fabric is immersed for like five minutes into a large bowl containing natural dyes, mixed with hydro sulphide and caustic soda. The fabric is then left to oxidize for a bit. After a while, the candle wax is de-waxed (removal of candle wax) in hot water and any residue of wax washed off in cold water.

What is Adire’s main competitor?

Adire’s main competitor is the Dutch wax fabric also known as Ankara. The Ankara fabric though not an African fabric (The fabric is traditionally designed and manufactured in European factories by the Europeans and exported to West Africa, while the patterns are adopted from Indonesian batik), was embraced by Africans due to its variety and vibrant colours, motif which are peculiar to African fabrics, its texture, its affordability, ease of maintenance and on a greater strength its versatility. The Ankara fabric has its designs on silk, chiffon etc. to allow for more versatility and textile expression as a way of increasing its appeal.

How do you take care of Adire fabric for it to last?

A good way to test any fabric for colour fastness is to dampen a piece of white fabric, lay it on top of the dyed fabric and iron them both until dry, if there is any rogue colour it will bleed out unto the white fabric.

At Adirelounge, we have perfected our dyeing process to ensure that our fabrics don’t fade. Our clients have attested to that for over a three- year period that we launched Adirelounge. Use a washing machine to wash your Adire fabrics for the best results. Using the machine provides the efficient and complete wash your fabric needs. Wash the fabrics at no hotter than 30c. For the cotton fabric light starch is needed so when it is ironed it comes out beautiful. For the chiffon, viscose, Jersey and silk, which we produce at Adirelounge, no starch is needed.

What makes Adire really special?

What makes Adire really special is the intricate designs, which is the result of hand painted work carried out on the fabric.

Perhaps more than any art form, the Adire textile reflects the culture from which they come. Adire textiles are a viable means of which the rich Yoruba cultural heritage and ideas could be conveyed to other cultures.

The techniques are passed on from one generation to another. It takes roughly three days to complete a yard and about seven days to two weeks to complete five yards of fabric depending on the design. All designs on Adire fabrics tell a story. By wearing Adire fabric we ensure that our culture and art are always around and with us. Each pattern on the Adire fabric connotes a meaning. Cowries represent money, They also represent power. Cassava leaves represent life, and the talking drum is the constellation of tradition.

Can Adire be described as organic print?

The Adire fabric can be described as an organic print. Most dyes used to produce them are either natural dyes or synthetic dyes. They are also organic in the sense that the designs and process are all curated from organic materials. The designs tell a story of a particular culture.

Why is Adire found in only thick cotton or polyester textures, why not also silk and chiffon textures?

When I started Adirelounge it was the string thick cotton fabrics that was available in the open market. We had to differentiate ourselves by sourcing for versatile fabrics like jersey, chiffon, viscose, silk and create patterns on them. Even our cotton fabrics are not so thick as the ones sold in the open market. The cotton count of the cotton fabric we use is high and of a good quality.

At Adirelounge we make Adire designs and patterns on chiffon, cotton, jersey, viscose, lace, silk, T-shirts, scarves, etc. All hand dyed in Lagos, Nigeria.

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