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Spotlight on African Print Fashion: Transforming Iro and Buba with Gele into Modern Styles

Paying Homage to the Iro and Buba with Gele Style

At River & Mara, we're pioneering a revolution in African print fashion, transcending the conventional Iro and Buba with Gele ensemble (a traditional wrapper, blouse, and headwrap combination). Our mission is to seamlessly integrate African print into contemporary designs while paying homage to the iconic Iro, Buba, and Gele combo that has been synonymous with African fashion.

man and women wearing traditional african clothing

The Iro, a large wrapper tied around the waist, and the Buba, a loose-fitting blouse that drapes comfortably over the body. This traditional attire has been a staple of Nigerian women's wardrobe for decades, worn at weddings, religious ceremonies, and other important events. Its versatility allows it to be crafted from a wide range of materials, including cotton, silk, lace, and Ankara fabric, each selection reflecting the wearer's personal style and the occasion's significance.

woman in iro african clothing

The Gele is not just a headwrap but a canvas for artistic expression, with styles varying to reflect the occasion, the wearer's personality, and the intricacy desired. Among the multitude of styles, the fan-shaped Gele exudes a regal aura, sprawling elegantly to frame the face. The rose Gele, intricate and delicate, mimics the layers of a blooming flower, symbolizing beauty and grace. The iconic butterfly Gele, with its wide-spread wings, represents transformation and elegance, making a bold statement at any gathering.

women wearing gele african traditional wear

A Glimpse into the History of the Iro and Buba with Gele

Originating from the Yoruba tribe in southwestern Nigeria, the Iro & Buba style has been the quintessential attire for traditional events from the 1960s through the 1980s, continuously evolving over the decades. Renowned Nigerian designers such as Deola Sagoe and Vivian Udeh have played pivotal roles in transforming this traditional attire into a fashionable choice for the younger generation, leveraging fabrics like silk, lace, and chiffon to maintain its relevance in modern times.

The legacy of Mrs Stella Obasanjo, the late former First Lady of Nigeria, in popularising the Iro and Buba style with impeccably styled Gele on a global scale, cannot be overstated. A fashion icon, she frequently donned exquisite Iro and Buba outfits to international events, showcasing the elegance of Nigerian fashion alongside former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The Gele: A Masterpiece of African Fashion

The Gele, known as Ichafu in Igbo culture, stands as a testament to the richness of Nigerian heritage, symbolising more than just an accessory. It is a deeply rooted cultural emblem among the Yoruba and Igbo tribes, representing elegance, status, and identity. Mastering the art of Gele tying is a skill revered and passed down through generations, often seen as a rite of passage among women in these communities.

The Artistry of Gele Tying

Tying a Gele is an intricate process that requires skill, patience, and creativity. Traditionally, it has been an endeavour undertaken by the matriarchs of African families—our mothers and grandmothers—who wield the expertise to sculpt these headpieces into stunning forms without assistance. However, the complexity of the task often transforms it into a communal activity, where the act of tying a Gele becomes a shared experience, fostering bonds and passing on cultural traditions.

Styles and Significance of Gele

So where can I wear Iro and Buba with Gele to?

Wherever you want sis, we promise that you will definitely be stealing the show at any event you wear this amazing ensemble to. The Iro and Buba with Gele ensemble is a versatile masterpiece that ensures you stand out at any event. This stunning outfit can be tailored to reflect your unique style and personality, from the way the Gele is tied to the choice of fabrics and colours.

Final thoughts

At River & Mara, we're excited to be at the forefront of reimagining this traditional staple piece. Keep an eye out for our latest offerings and get ready to make a statement wherever you go with this timeless ensemble.

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