This shimmering print celebrates the life of an inspirational social entrepreneur.
Adorned with strong hands and rippling gold waves, the opulent Hands Full fabric glows with life. To create this shimmering fabric, Dutch fabric house Vlisco took one of their iconic prints and breathed a new life into it with a paletteof deep dyes and a sparkling highlight of gold to give it a dramatic, almost majestic quality. We couldn’t think of a better way to honor the late social entrepreneur — and true shero — Leila Janah than by using this fabric to create a dress in her name as part of our Sheroes collection.
A warning to brides-to-be
The hand motif can be dated back to 1985. It was particularly popular in Togo, where it was also known as “Hands and Fingers”. The 12 dots in the middle of the open palm are considered to be old English pennies.
But it is another popular name, “Don’t get married with empty hands”, that points to the fabric’s original meaning — a warning to young women to ensure their financial independence before they enter into marriage.. People in Togo believe that you can’t be happy in a marriage if all you bring to it is love, and so every bride in Togo gathers baby clothes, pots and cooking tools, and a wardrobe in wax fabrics, among other possessions. More importantly, she comes to a marriage prepared to generate an income through economic activity, in order not to end up depending on her husband’s good will. In this, she is often supported and helped by her mother.
THE MAAKOLA MEANING
The dignity of work
We wanted to create an extraordinary dress to honor the memory of a remarkable woman, Leila Janah, who dedicated her life to creating job opportunities for some of the poorest people in the world. Hidden in this fabric, we found the perfect imagery to express her — and our — vision. By symbolizing the value and power of giving people the dignity of work, the print brings Leila’s ideas to life.
Since ancient times, depictions of hands have represented the human ability to create, invent and make.
Hands of old gods depicted their supreme agency and symbolised the act of creation. This continued with the hands of humans, which were shown as tools to grasp and claim the world through craft and work. But they have also always been means of our non-verbal communication: the expressions, emotions and explanations shown through hands are almost universal throughout all cultures. In human hands, there is a great potential for connection.
The rays of light in this print represent the magical and healing properties worthy of the sun, and the possibility of radiating goodness in all directions. In ancient art, solar rays were believed to transfer properties of creativity, healing and prophecy. The colors are also deeply symbolic. Gold represents wisdom and perfection — and the human striving to reach it. The deep dark greens and blacks of the print, meanwhile, may symbolise the darkness of night, or the unconscious, but it’s also worth noting that in some parts of Africa, black symbolises north — the source of black clouds of nurturing rain, vegetation and water; signs of lushness and hope.
We hope that the warm golden rays of the Leila dress will bring the light of inspiration to your nights, and maybe even spark a conversation about the future of business.
How we work with the Hands Full fabric
Made with a tightly woven cotton yarn, the Hands Full fabric is soft to the touch but holds its shape well, which makes it perfect for structured dresses. So it was a natural design choice to lean into the drama of this Vlisco Wax Print when we created the Leila Janah Dress. In deep dark green and black with gleaming gold ripples, the dress has golden sun rays radiating from the shoulders and wrists, with the large hand motifs taking pride of place at the center of the maxi skirt.
With a luxe sheen that lends itself well to evening wear, this statement dress is easy to care for: simply hand wash in lukewarm water and iron on the reverse.