Mali's famous bazin cloth seen as path to better lives

Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:19am EST
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By Joe Penney

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Gasps of delight filled the convention hall as models, decked out in Mali's signature bazin fabric in crimson reds, indigoes and neon greens, strutted the catwalk.

Musicians from across the West African nation provided the soundtrack.

Bazin, a polished, heavy cotton fabric with a distinctive sheen, is extremely popular across the region and is worn at almost all formal occasions in Mali.

“If you show up to a marriage without wearing bazin, you might as well not show up at all,” said Baba Sereme, a designer known for his bazin suits for men, hand-dyed elaborate color schemes.

The annual Festi’Bazin, held in late October in the riverside capital Bamako, showcased the cloth and featured designers from Senegal, Mali, Niger and Morocco. However its focus was as much on improving the lives of people in one of the world's poorest countries as it was on fashion.

"The bazin industry is great because you don't need to go to school to be a designer or stylist or dyer or tailor. Creativity is something you don't learn. It's something you're born with," said Aminata Bocoum, Festi'Bazin's founder.

While many Malians, particularly women, sell bazin or tailor clothing from it, the country produces none of the cloth it consumes despite being one of Africa's top growers of cotton.

Instead it imports finished bazin, also called damask, from Germany, Austria, and increasingly China.   Continued...