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Fabric Spotlight | The History of Maasai Shuka

Fabric Spotlight | The History of Maasai Shuka

All of our pet accessory collections are made from fabric that we have designed in house or from ethically sourced fabrics from our travels. All of our in-house fabric designs are hand drawn by our Co-Founder and Head of Design, Amy. As well as these original designs, we also make our pet accessories from limited edition fabrics that we source throughout Co-Founder Bee's home continent of Africa. These fabrics often come from small local markets in Ghana or Senegal but we also buy directly from larger mills in Kenya and South Africa who have a long history of manufacturing our Shuka and Shweshwe styles respectively. Today we wanted to highlight the rich history behind the fabric of our most popular collections - Shuka Red and Shuka Blue

Image credit: Lizzie (Dogvision

 

Even if you have never heard of Shuka, there is a good chance you have seen it in interiors magazines or worn something inspired by it's design. Often red with black stripes, shuka cloth is often known as the 'African blanket' and is worn by the Maasai people of East Africa. The Maasai are a semi-nomadic group of people from East Africa who are known for their unique way of life, as well as their cultural traditions and customs. Living along the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania and Kenya, the Maasai population is currently at around 1.5 million, with the majority of them living on the Masai Mara National Reserve of Kenya. Red is the most common colour for Shuka cloth, but the Maasai also use blue, striped, and checkered cloth to wrap around their bodies. Shuka cloth is durable, strong, and thick which helps to protect the Maasai people from the harsh weather and terrain of the savannah. 

 

Image via gadventures

 

Although Shuka is now considered to be traditional clothing for the Maasai, they only began to wear commercial cotton cloth in the 1960s. Before the colonisation of Africa, the Maasai would wear leather garments made from calf hides and sheep skin. It is not entirely clear why Shuka cloth became the traditional cloth of the Maasai, but there are a few theories. Fabrics were often used as a kind of payment during the slave trade making them more available throughout East Africa. In fact, Shuka cloth is believed to have been originally brought in by Scottish missionaries during the colonial era. The Africa Inland Mission was established in 1895, and until 1909 Kenya was its only operation. 

 

 

Nowadays, Shuka fabric can be found throughout the fashion world and it is gaining fame all over the globe. In 2012, Louis Vuitton featured red and blue Shuka in their Spring/Summer collection, using the fabric for hats, shirts and scarves. We hope you enjoyed learning more about Shuka fabric and it's rich history! You can shop our Shuka Red and Shuka Blue collections here. 

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