If you’ve ever seen brocade or damask fabrics, jacquard is the reason behind their unique texture and patterns. Invented in 1804 by Joseph Marie Jacquard, it is a technique that allows the weaver to create an intricate, textured surface with a limitless range of images and a reverse weave on the back. For French-born Christine Daron, founder of African Jacquard, it was part of her upbringing, with personalised jacquard-woven tea towels a feature of the daily teatime ritual in France.
While more traditional weaving techniques are restricted to straight lines, such as stripes or, failing that, printed graphics, jacquard’s ability to produce a motif of any description makes it a particularly exciting option for gifts, personalisation and for branding.
“I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve always loved fabric. Every time I visited another country I’d buy more fabric. I never thought I’d one day weave … that was never the plan. I went to business school in France!” Daron exclaims.
Having lived in Gabon for 11 years with her husband and kids, Daron learned to renovate her home on a shoestring budget, scouring the local markets and discovering local textiles. When they moved to South Africa in 1997, they started a procurement company supplying goods to expats living in Gabon and Congo.
At some point she got a call from Angola, asking her to source and supply furniture for homes. She jumped at the opportunity to flex her creative muscles and work with fabric. “I knew the way of life and the needs of the expat workers there. Everything I did was simple and understated but I used good fabrics and introduced colour in the cushions,” she says. She was then urged to take it a step further and decorate a hotel near the Congo River mouth at Soyo. The hotel commissions became bigger from that point.
It was only when she was living in Cape Town and she paired a kikoi with a piece of jacquard fabric from an old mill in France that the idea to marry the two styles was born. Daron went back to that same mill in France and learned the art of jacquard weaving over a period of two years. “Our first commission was the cotton and linen napkins for Babylonstoren, in about 2014. That was really the beginning of African Jacquard.”
Since then, she has created bespoke textiles for a slew of luxe lodges like Angama Mara in Kenya, Sabi Sabi and The Mount Nelson, as well as the Zeitz MOCAA, The Silo and Marble. The barbershop graphics in her tea towels were inspired by her time in Gabon, the Kuba patterns reference the Congo, the Ndebele designs nod to South Africa and masks from Gabon and Burkina Faso also feature.
The names of the towels, throws, bed covers, scatters and aprons reflect this history. “It’s my life’s story, of all the countries I have been to,” Daron says. Even the checks that border most of her tea towels speak to her heritage. “My grandmother used to do the same with her own fabrics. I didn’t realise it when I did it, but it had stuck with me somewhere in the back of my mind,” she says.
Of the entire range, it’s the new Bogolan throws that we cannot resist. Made in collaboration with Cape Town artist Michael Chandler, they feature intricate Malian patterns woven in cotton and linen waffle weave. The colours alone will seduce you.