Sunday 18 July 2010

What Is A Kikoy?

With beach holidays for many now being the norm rather than
the exception, a whole new world of informal beach attire
has evolved for young and old alike. This means practical
outfits that can be worn both on the beach and early evening
in the bar or just around the house or hotel. The kikoy
(sometimes spelt kikoi) is a classic example.

In the past, for those who had never been to East Africa, a
kikoy was probably an unfamiliar item. Today however, most
fashion aware women will know what kikoy is. This is
slightly ironic as a kikoy was originally a traditional
garment for men. Basically, it is a piece of woven cotton
which is rectangular in shape. They originated in East
Africa, particularly in Kenya, and have a similar look and
function to a wrap or sarong.

Today Kikoys are worn by men and women of all ages and size.
The great thing about kikoys is that they are so versatile.
There are simply masses of ways to wear them for a start.
They are the ultimate in African accessories. They can be
worn like a sarong or a casual evening dress. They are not
only ideal for the beach either, as they have been used to
double up as a scarf or picnic rug or even a colourful
furniture throw. Other uses include as a table cloth,
bedspread or just about anything a rectangular piece of
cotton can be used for.

Kenya is the true spiritual home of the kikoy, notably on
the coastal areas. Kikoys are generally manufactured in
small local factories, or just groups of workers, using
locally grown cotton, often of the highest quality. They
produce very practical garments, designed not just for
comfort but for style. It is a traditional garment which now
has a very contemporary look. It is worn at waist level as a
sarong or wrap for men and women. Alternatively it is worn
under the arms like a towel, tied, turned and twisted to

A kikoy is not just a garment it is a work of art using the
vibrant colours which are reminiscent of the region. The
cotton, which is woven and spun in Kenya, is mostly dyed
with eco certified dyes from Europe. This gives an enduring
quality not usually found with the old traditional dyes.

The manufacturing process itself remains very traditional
with looms threaded by craftsmen almost like a Persian
carpet. This means each kikoy could be said to be unique as
there will be minute differences in each batch of looming.

Of course no garment of clothing is complete without
accessories and a whole branch of suppliers will offer hats,
beads, bags and belts to give to finish off the kikoy look.

About the Author:

Aspiga was set up in 2005 to supply the best of hand made
beachware from local manufacturers in Kenya. Products
include hand made sandals and belts, beachwear (sarongs,
kikoys and dresses), swimwear and bags. All items are of the
highest quality.

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