Buying Fabric in Accra

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.

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Dan and his sister at Ocansey Batik

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?

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25 Responses to Buying Fabric in Accra

  1. Kwasi Appiah says:

    Thanks for the Accra write-up, Ethan. Only you could have been this thorough.

  2. kd says:

    Thank you Ethan! Have bookmarked this post for its most useful and practical info on Accra fabrics and fabric markets. I am an avid and always learning world fabric collector. I tend to favor African fabrics(since I am African myself). West Africa is on the horizon. Accra is as yet unexplored territory for me but you help me get my bearings.

  3. Juliana says:

    Definitely. I am already trying to figure out a trip there in the near future. Thanks for your insight, I had a wonderful time at the market, we should totally do it again. When in Kenya I will go look for the Khanga cloth…which has abit of a Kenyan history too.

  4. Wale says:

    Please can I have a contact at the Mokola textile market in Accra?My email is wadeyoola@gmail.com

  5. Mr.Choice says:

    Accra is such a beautiful city. The people in Ghana are really nice. Their Kente cloths are also exceptional

  6. nommy says:

    hi everyone am a zimbabwean in china we sell khanga fabrics at a cheaper price if you are interested email me.thanks

  7. Adwoa Perbi says:

    Thanks for the post Ethan. It was very useful to me when I began working on my online clothing store http://www.afrochiconline.com Our goal is to create contemporary clothes using African print.

  8. Louaine Elke says:

    Ethan,
    We recently went to Accra with a list of fabric stores and found Mercy Ocancy’s batiks and garment styles wonderful. I thought the prices reasonable when you consider the quality of the unique materials. I have enjoyed my jacket and looking at my traveling companions in their Ocancy batiks.

    I crave more. How would you hnadle an order by mail?

    Thanks

  9. Mercy Ocansey’s textile designs and fabrics are my favorite too. I purchased lots of fabrics and clothing from her in the early 90’s. And, decades later the colors are just as vibrant and the clothing just as fashionable as when I first purchased them. So many fond memories of Ghana!!!

  10. Ethan says:

    Arabella, I looked down as I read your comment and realized I’m wearing a Mercy Ocansey shirt today. I have no fashion sense at all, but it’s still my favorite shirt, profoundly vibrant, and perhaps I’m fashionable without knowing it.

    Louaine and everyone else asking for contacts in Ghana – apologies, I’m in the States these days and only in West Africa a couple of weeks a year. Sorry that I can’t take orders or help make contacts.

  11. In Accra from Monrovia for the weekend and this is so helpful!! They sell Batik for 3yds= $25 USD in Liberia, and I KNEW I could find it much cheaper here!

  12. Thanks for this!! It is exactly what I was looking for!

  13. dianne says:

    the price now in 2011 is now 10 cedis per yard for batik fabric

  14. doris douglas says:

    Could you send me some pictures of quilted bags. I purchased some aat the factory in accra senegal. I would like to order some more

  15. Hi customers, the price of the fabrics i sell here changes with time.the prices which were written there was about 6 to 7 yrs ago.for now the price is 15 cedis a yard and the prices of the dresses and shirts also varies. You are always welcome, thank u

  16. This is my mail, missocansey@yahoo.com and tell# 021 777835

  17. deja says:

    Hello do you sell all type of fabrics or just African print. Thank you

  18. Ethan says:

    Uh, I don’t sell any fabric. I’m a blogger, reporting on a particular shop in Accra. The folks at Mercy’s batik primarily sell batik… but I don’t represent them – I’m merely a fan.

  19. Hey,In case there is anyone here who want to receive fabrics by mail I am will be at your service. I have been doing this for people in mostly America and other Western and African countries.I did not plan to make this publicly until a friend in the U.S advised me that there are people who are outside looking for cheaper ways to import or receive fabrics in mail.Contact me through my email address or visit my blog(Hey,In case there is anyone here who want to receive fabrics by mail I am will be at your service. I have been doing this for people in mostly America and other Western and African countries.I did not plan to make this publicly until a friend in the U.S advised me that there are people who are outside looking for cheaper ways to import or receive fabrics in mail.Contact me through my email address or visit my blog(http://blackstarfabrics.blogspot.com/) which is currently being developed to know more and experience a new way to receive your beautiful fabrics through mail wherever you are in this world i.e U.S,Canada,Australia…. Thank you – See more at: http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2009/07/20/buying-fabric-in-accra/comment-page-1/#comment-2806225) which is currently being developed to know more and experience a new way to receive your beautiful fabrics through mail wherever you are in this world i.e U.S,Canada,Australia…. Thank you – see more blackstarfabrics.blogspot.com

  20. Renaud Montes says:

    Thank you very much Ethan!, I am just coming back from a visit to Woodin (Osu store) and Mercy Asi Ocansey, both places are great, I ended up buying a shirt, a dress and kind-of-scarf (made at the moment, actually was just sewing couple of sides) at Mercy Asi Ocansey, spending 165 cedis, 100 for the dress, 50 for the shirt and 15 for the scarf, and I got a another scarf for free!
    Beautiful pieces of art and the owner very helpful, happy to be photographed and eager to talk about the batik process.
    All in all a great experience that a foreigner should not miss.

    Thanks again Ethan!

  21. Modupe says:

    hello Miss Mercy Ocansey; After reading all these wonderful things about your store, Then i Must drop by to see what I can get from you for my business when am in Accra next month.
    Do you mail orders to your customers? I may not want to take all my goods since am travelling by road, I won’t mind making arrangements for them to be mailed to me. Thank you

  22. Edwina Assan says:

    hello everyone,
    i am Edwina Assan, a textile designer located in Accra.we make very beautiful hand-made batik. you can check out some of our designs on our website, which is
    http://www.edtexbatiksgh.com, i assure you, you will not regret it.

  23. Raiya says:

    yeah,i know Edwina’s place.my cousin took me there the last time i was in Ghana. i bought 2 different designs of her batik. they were so beautiful. my friends got mad at me because i didn’t get them some of my batik and trust me, they are still colourful and fashionable as i first bought them.i hope to visit her again,when i’m in ghana.

  24. phumzile says:

    I dealing with fabrics and I like your kente, batik and other African prints.
    I would like to order fabric from Accra but I don’t have a clue how because I
    am in South Africa.

    HELP ME PLEASE

  25. fatima says:

    please am in Nigeria and i will like to buy some angelina and dumas fabrics from ghana….please can anyone help me out on how to buy and ship these materials from ghana to nigeria? thanks.

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