You might assume that Vlisco was a West African company selling to the Dutch, but in fact quite the opposite is true. Vlisco have been making traditional batik fabric in Holland since 1846, when Pieter Fentener van Vlissingen founded the company. Because genuine Indonesian batik was very labor-intensive and therefore expensive, he spotted an opportunity to automate the dyeing process to make the fabrics more affordable.

DDW13: A Visit to Vlisco Textiles in style fashion main  Category

Combining Dutch craftsmanship with West and Central African fashion, taste and style, the fabrics were known colloquially as ‘Hollandais’ (from the French for ‘Dutch’) and have been sold by local vendors to wealthy Africans for more than a century.

DDW13: A Visit to Vlisco Textiles in style fashion main  Category

Each design starts with a hand drawing (like the ones pictured above) by one Vlisco’s team of designers who might be based in Eindhoven, but who come from countries as diverse as Mexico, Cameroon, France, Britain and of course the Netherlands.

DDW13: A Visit to Vlisco Textiles in style fashion main  Category

The designers might find their inspiration from Africa—whether it’s from landscapes, every day objects, traditional kente cloth or tribal art—but increasingly they are also drawing from international trends, Islamic geometrical patterns, modern music and pop art.

DDW13: A Visit to Vlisco Textiles in style fashion main  Category

Creative Director Roger Gerards said: “A lot of our designs are named by our consumers. As soon as they’ve given names to them, they’ve adopted the product as their own, as if they have baptized it. We are the father making the product, but our consumers are the ones that name them—there is a huge emotional connection there.”

DDW13: A Visit to Vlisco Textiles in style fashion main  Category

“The designers are so autonomous and free that we can make these bold designs that really differ from each other. They really inspire me. Pattern designs are the source for the whole brand, and how we communicate,” Roger said.

DDW13: A Visit to Vlisco Textiles in style fashion main  Category

“We have a huge archive as a company and have collected archives from other companies too. We have Indonesian fabrics dating back to 1850,” says Roger. “But we’re on the verge of becoming a new Vlisco, and we’re giving a glimpse of that during Dutch Design Week. We’ve developed bags and scarves in Italy; a completely different collection from the current West African fabrics.”

DDW13: A Visit to Vlisco Textiles in style fashion main  Category

“We’re certainly going global, which means we will be selling products worldwide—products other than just fabrics, products born of our unique design laboratory,” says Roger.

DDW13: A Visit to Vlisco Textiles in style fashion main  Category

Our trip to Eindhoven was supported by Airbnb.com.