Note: I’m flattered that this posts comes up as a search result for purchasing fabric in Accra, but I am not in the fabric business. I cannot sell you fabric from Ghana, nor do I represent Mercy Ocansey’s family – comments asking me for wholesale fabric from Ghana or contact information for fabric sellers will be deleted.
On our final day in Abuja, my friend Juliana Rotich demanded that we visit Wuse Market so she could stock up on cloth for herself and her extended family. She came armed with a list of top textile brands her aunties had told her to look for – as it happens, all the listed labels were Ghanaian.
Since I was heading to Ghana next, I saved my fabric budget for Accra instead. There are numerous places to purchase fabric in the city, and three are worth special mention:
– Makola Market. In an episode of his television show on Ghana, roaving chef and bon vivant Anthony Bourdain introduces Makola Market by saying, “Can I get you anything? I mean, literally anything?” Vendors at Makola specialize in commodities as diverse as live snails and iron padlocks. Somewhere in the chaos that is the city’s largest market is a vast warren of fabric sellers. Many vendors sell fabric in the front of their shops and provide tailoring services in the rear – this can be an excellent way to select the right amount of fabric for a specific design, as a tailor can measure you and determine how many yards you need for that kente-printed tuxedo jacket.
Be careful – not all vendors are selling the same quality of fabric. The colorful Dutch Wax cloth you’re seeing so many Ghanaians wear is quite expensive, and you should be able to tell the stuff made locally, as it’s fairly opaque, sturdy and often has a waxy gloss to it. If you’re handling a fabric that’s very thin, looks like it could tear or run, you’re handling a Chinese knockoff of a local design. Don’t buy it. These knockoffs are a particularly insidious form of piracy, where designs are stolen from Ghanaian factories and sold on cheap cloth around West Africa.
– Woodin. The Woodin showroom in Osu – on Oxford Street, south of Danquah Circle – is one of the temples of high fashion in West Africa. Woodin designs and prints some of the most extraordinary fabrics – some of their current lines include designs that look space-aged and feature striking shades of orange, purple and green. Woodin sells finished clothing as well as fabric. None of it is cheap, but all of it is excellent, and if you’re intrigued by the idea of designing contemporary clothing with modern African fabrics, this is a trip you need to make. Woodin also has a much smaller – but very fashionable – boutique in the Accra Mall.
– Mercy Ocansey Batik. My favorite Ghanaian cloth is batik, and my favorite batiks are made by the Ocansey family in Nunga, and sold in Osu at Mercy Asi Ocansey and Sons Batik in Osu. The shop isn’t far from Woodin – to find it, go to Frankie’s Hotel and turn onto the road that passes the right side of Frankie’s. About 300 meters, just past Revenue Tower, you’ll find the small shop on the left side of the road.
Mercy is retired now, but her family has continued her traditions, and offers dozens of fine batiks as well as tailoring services. As with all good cloth, it’s not cheap – most batiks run 5 cedis per yard (roughly $3.50) and these prices are fixed. (Don’t bother barganing here – it just doesn’t work.) The real gem of the store, in my opinion, is the patchwork (asisewa) cloth, which costs significantly more, perhaps 15 cedis per yard – it’s a riot of color and design, made from squares left over from the tailor shop.
When looking at the batik, be sure to unfold the bolts of fabric – most have two designs on the same piece. They’re designed to complement each other – it’s common to buy equal amounts of each design and to sew clothing that uses one fabric as an accent on the other. The fashions displayed at the shop often show this technique to good effect. If you’re in Accra for a period of time, I recommend visiting the shop early in your stay, and bringing one or more favorite pieces of clothing with you. You can choose appropriate batiks, and Mercy’s family will reproduce the cut of your sample garment in their fabrics, often within a few days.
I spent over a hundred dollars at Mercy’s shop – just on the least expensive batik – this past visit and still didn’t get everything I wanted. It’s a seriously dangerous place for people obsessed with strong colors and Ghanaian designs.
Juliana, have I convinced you to visit Accra yet?