When it comes to natural resources Liberia is the prototype. The Republic incubates the most natural resources in all of West Africa, including two species of its own cotton. One species grows in the fields of Lofa County, and the other comes from the cotton tree which can be found in many parts of the country. For centuries this cotton has been used in making what is known as Liberian “Country Cloth”. Originally, the cloth was handspun, hand dyed and hand woven cotton, created in using a simple foot treadle loom. It would often be plain white, but natural dyes such as kola and indigo would be used to add color and design. Though traditionally made and worn by Native Liberians in the interior, Country Cloth has recently made its mark on the booming fashion industry of the country.
Pioneers in making Country Cloth hip, cool, and trendy are sisters Chara Itoka Cooper and Phyllis Itoka, the creators of Piso Collection. Carrying the slogan “Textiles for Social and Economic Change”, Piso Collection is a sustainable and ready-to-wear line. Based and manufactured in Liberia, the organization empowers Liberian workers through higher wages and secure working conditions. The name Piso comes from the name of the largest lake in Liberia, and the brand is stimulated by the beauty of Grand Cape Mount County where Lake Piso resides. Chara has always had a reputation of being seen in African prints, and love of styling other people in them. Phyllis was a fashion model for over ten years and is not only a designer, but also the finance guru of the operation. The sisters pride themselves in creating clothing with pretty silhouettes that capture the modern spirit of the Liberian woman through local bold print.
The Piso Collection Atelier (workshop) was recently opened to the public, and showcased modern, colorful, and vibrant pieces in variety of African fabrics. It was thrilling to see how many designs were made out of Country Cloth. Chara and Phyllis get their cloth from a tiny district known as Tewor, where it is hand made with colored thread by their personal weaver Fanta. From skirt suits, to dresses, bowties and even wallets the native Liberian cloth is finally receiving the attention it so rightly deserves.
Piso Collection can be located at
Urban Plaza Compound
6th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia
Author: Chiquita A. Johnson
Africa Fashion Guide Liberia Contributor
(Founder – www.liberty-lifestyle.blogspot.com)