Austrian Fabrics: the West African Heritage

AUSTRIA – For more than 40 years Austrian embroideries represent the highest quality level of African clothing tradition. These premium textiles are fixed to people who are wearing embroideries as a symbol and metaphor. A tight business relationship between West African customers and Austrian manufacturing companies assure innovative and qualitative products as well as modern design developments.


To intensify the knowledge about the West African market/customers two Austrian fashion experts made a comprehensive investigation and accomplished a research study about the West African embroidery market. Silke Jurkowitsch and Alexander Sarlay are impressed by the always well dressed West African people and the deep-rooted clothing tradition. “Cloths are a mirrow of the person, cloths show the spirit of the people”, they say. The project is dedicated to all people who cultivate a clothing tradition and who take care about their clothing style.


The motivation for this project is based on learning from history of more than 500 years of trading with textiles between West Africa and Europe. Still today, there are the same factors and mechanisms used for doing business. New things are as well absorbed instantly and transformed into the existing tradition. Also fashion is a typical western phenomenon; the things which are counting in the African world are the traditional ones.


Traditional clothing still is a symbol of status, reputation, wealth, etc. Furthermore money for high qualitative and valuable products is still available. The product itself must be developed, marketed and sold in a 100% true-package to the customer. Therefore, copied, cheap, low quality and second-hand textiles are only a way to be “decorated” in the correct cultural way even for people with little money. One of the only existing USPs of Europe is the richness of creativity and the close relationship to African customers. In this project, creativity is the main driver for staying in front of the competitors in the high-end African embroidery market.


The project objectives therefore are the exploration of the niche for Austrian embroideries, to recognize the key factors of designing embroideries for different African cultures and to identify the key factors for trading in West Africa.


The methodology is divided into three levels: Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow. The “Yesterday” part is developed based on existing literature in the fields of ethnography, cultural aspects, religion, art, strategy and marketing. This is followed by the “Today” part, which is a concentration on the actual situation in Africa, Europe, Asia and Near Middle East done in a qualitative way (e.g. observation, interviews, and photo documentation) directly in West Africa. Finally, the “Tomorrow” part consists of the combination of specific challenges for the Austrian embroideries in West Africa as well as international best practices which lead to a positioning for the Austrian embroideries and thereof important project propositions.


This project can contribute to new knowledge by developing a research model in the future for specific high-end products in Africa. The conclusions derived from this model could be the recognizing of the importance of the eye-level, the awareness of the customers´ background in nation, religion, tradition, and the usage of the customers language to market the niche of the product successfully with different marketing activities.


by Silke Jurkowitsch, Alexander Sarlay




About the Authors

Silke Jurkowitsch and Alexander Sarlay were born in the western part of Austria: They grew up with a long fashion tradition in their living area and have a wide ranged experience working together with textiles, decorative and crystal components. Their know-how about textile and crystal business opens new innovation projects in every industry. A main focus is on opportunities and chances in different parts of Africa. Today they live as real cosmopolitans, most of the time they are travelling between Africa, Middle East and Asia. Their alliance combines cross-cultural creativity, leading global business networks in different branches and professional Project Management.



Sarlay & Jurkowitsch Consulting


Silke Jurkowitsch:

Mobile: +43 660 3111 550


Alexander Sarlay:

Mobile: +43 660 111 2001


6094 Axams





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