Meet ANNegret Affolderbach: Creative Director & Designer of Choolips

Saturday, April 30th we'll be having a special master class in partnership with EcoSessions, Stripes + Flags by visiting London-based artist, Creative Director & Designer of Choolips, Annegret Affolderbach. Annegret is known for her taste-making and innovative artisanal collections applying ancient textile traditions from West Africa and India. She has a passion for cloth & pattern and a wealth of experience in creating both printed textiles and surface pattern design. She will be guiding participants through the day with inspiration and insider tips to create their own special flags to keep and pass down from generation to generation. 

What is a Choolip?
It’s a person that works with Choolips. CHOOLIPS . propernoun, plural is derived from the phonetic spelling of Tulips. This exotic flower caused the ‘Tulip Fever’ in the 17th Century in the Netherlands with its bulbs becoming the most valuable and prestigious coveted luxuries traded like gold. 

...and Choolips?    
Choolips is a Fashion Brand created in 2007 and residing in London, United Kingdom. Known for its taste making and innovative creation of artisanal collections applying ancient textile traditions and colour; seamless blends of cultures. Creator of boldly printed and embroidered textiles applied across all collections. Categorised successfully as pioneer for sustainable and fair fashion producing with entrepreneurial artisan businesses in West & East Africa, India and Europe. This year we are departing in a new direction, less womenswear and more of our textiles and conceptual work. It’s all about cloth and pattern and some of this work is reflected in the ‘stripes + flags’ masterclass.

I strongly believe in people working together and not people working for me. Choolips was set up to work with individual grassroots businesses to grow a new contemporary life for the crafts that we engage with and as the designer I suppose I provide the lead for creating my visions and the bridge between artisans and buyers so our products find the people that desire them. Inevitably that engages everyone involved from the artisans to the buyers to the desirers of our products to provide their best potential in growing this. It also inevitably creates a place where we exchange skills, knowledge and ideas in order to push beyond the status quo. My main focus for Choolips collections has been on working with Batik and batikers, tailors and seamstresses in Ghana and manufacturing in Kenya and Ethiopia as well as a second Choolips line, produced in India that looked at appliqué and khadi textiles.

How did you first discover African textiles and artisans?
I first came across West African textiles in 2004 when researching the history of my local area here in London, Whitechapel. I was tracing the trail of the cotton that was received in London’s ports back to West African shores and I fell in love with the colours of West African textiles, the variety of techniques and the potential of it all. The history and the stories. Funnily enough it always felt like home and now all that makes sense given the traditions in Eastern Europe, which I grew up with, that are so much about crafts and colour. I was actually looking at kimono at the time and researched the history of textiles creation in the Far East and my first garments made in West Africa were kimono with batik created with artisans in The Gambia back in 2005.

How does this work as a collaboration?
As a designer I have collaborated with brands and been commissioned to create special print lines for other brands. In most collaborative cases we selected some Choolips prints and handed it to our collaborators to see what beautiful products they would make. For commissions it’s more individualized to what a client might want to create with us. So there have been shoes, bags and jewelery. All much loved. All the collaborations have inspired me to go where we are heading now with Choolips.

What is most rewarding about this?
It’s the most amazing thing when you have people by your side that can help you translate what you hold in your minds eye into exactly what you want to it to be. It’s a special connection and trust. It’s peace. 

It all gets interesting when you supply giants such as Asos and Topshop with products, which are produced whilst facing much adversity and challenges in their supply chains. That’s when I feel the most eduction has been imparted on both ends of the supply chain and amongst the people involved and effected. It most certainly provoked big changes. I have seen whole teams in corporates so inspired by the details of what fairly traded means that they decided they could not continue to work any other way. That’s change and real impact as much as the delivery of premium wages on the other end for the producers, who have an unrivalled skill set is real impact.

The truth is it’s all about the relationships that I have built that help me create my visions. 


What inspired the stripes + flags idea?
Having worked in fashion for the past 10 years, I developed a deep desire to design the ultimate luxury; a contribution to the architecture of our identities reaching far beyond style, an experience and beautiful memory to keep. 
Stripes and flags hold so much symbolism for community, unity and standing firmly side by side, it was the perfect masterclass material. The class itself is a derivative of an immersive Choolips day called ‘at the heart of luxury’, which is a one day experience designed to discover emotional intelligence.  

Can you tell us a little bit about how the class works?
The intention of the class is exploration and discovery as much as the tapping of emotional intelligence inspired by the cultural and historical symbolism of stripes and the symbolism of flags. There are 6 rules you work to with simple tools to create  your flag.

Where can we find Choolips? 
First and foremost on Instagram @Choolips and you can soon purchase Choolips on www.choolips.com

Anything else you'd like to share?
I like good coffee and chocolate. You might be able to bribe me that way.

You can register for the Saturday April 30th class HERE  

All photos taken at a Stripes + Flags Master Class in London and photographed by Sadia Rafique - follow on Instagram @SadiaRafique

-Katya Moorman