Fashion draping in Africa

Creating a garment requires a lot of skill as well as creativity, and while many designers design garments that can be created using flat pattern making techniques, other garments are created by working directly on a mannequin using techniques often referred to as “draping”. Fashion draping, an important part of fashion design, is a process of positioning and pinning fabric on a dress form to develop the structure of a garment design.

A garment can be draped using a design sketch as a basis, or a fashion designer can play with the way a fabric falls to create new designs at the start of the apparel design process. After draping, the fabric is removed from the dress form and used to create the sewing pattern for the garment.

Many designers love the art of draping because their designs come to life as they manipulate the fabric on the dress form. Even though a designer may start out with a design sketch, during the draping process a new and more interesting design usually takes shape. This is why draping is considered the more creative method of pattern making.

Since this process has part of its history on the African continent with some of its origins having been found among the ancient Egyptians and also taking into consideration how some of the traditional forms of dressing in Africa involve traditional African cloth or “wrapper” being draped around the body, it is only right that African fashion designers master this important part of fashion designing.


Working on the “We train” sentiment, Fashion Africa 254 is making this a possibility by organising the first international Draping Workshop which will be held at Mcensal School of Fashion Design in Nairobi, Kenya with the aim of enhancing the development of fashion industries in Africa by enriching the skills of local designers. The workshop which will run from 24th of April to Friday 5th of May 2017, will be tutored by Anita Heiberg, a designer, pattern cutter, consultant and lecturer from Vancouver, Canada ( &

A graduate with various fashion degrees from Universities like Kwantlen Polytechnic in Canada, the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London and Esmod University in Berlin, Anita has over 10 years of experience under her belt as a designer and pattern cutter for her own eponymous label and numerous independent designers worldwide. She also serves as an associate lecturer in MA Sustainability in Fashion at her alma mater, Esmod Berlin.

Lanvin, AW2011, Paris. Images from

In Anita’s words, “draping gives a much needed connection to how fabric interacts with the body and builds expertise in manipulating forms and fitting to the body.” As such, fashion draping in Africa is a necessary means of ensuring that local designers master the skills that are essential in taking steps forward into the world of international fashion design.

Take for instance the international brand Lanvin which is regarded to be quite the master of the draping technique. Lanvin’s garments make it hard to spot seam lines, the fabric falls so beautifully and effortlessly mostly due to a great deal of work done by drape. African designers can also master such draping skills with the forthcoming international Draping Workshop organised by FA254. By applying for the workshop here , they too can become the next Lanvin.

Written by: Faith Katunga