When you think of the fabric Velvet, what comes to mind?
Royalty. Luxury. The Sun King, Louie XIV. Red Velvet Cupcakes. Perhaps the TV series, Velvet.
In reality, velvet is a type of fabric made with silk thread. It’s short and dense and created in such a way that helps with its incredible sheen and depth of colour. There are several different types of velvet that have evolved since the original — crushed, cut, panne, silk, rayon, cotton, and more.
Where Did It Originate From?
There is a high chance that the fabric originated in China in the thirteenth century or earlier, dating back to old dynasties, such as the Qin (221-206 BCE) and Western Han (206 BCE – 23 C.E).
There are also others who believe that velvet originated from Eastern culture, “with pile leaves, woven using silk and linen, analysed as being from 2000 BC Egyptian civilisation.”
It wasn’t until the Renaissance between 1400-1600 that the production of velvet became popular.
The Velvet Renaissance
The Europeans introduced the fabric along the Silk Road, which was “an ancient network of trade routes that connected East and Southeast Asia with East Africa, West Asia, and Southern Europe.”
Italy was the first European country to fully embrace the velvet industry — using it in clothing, furniture, and even curtains — but it was most commonly associated with the upper class. Venice, Florence, and Genoa have been recognized as the most important Italian centres of high quality velvet production.
“The first time we see velvet used in garments other than church awnings and robes are in portraits of Henry VII,” says Jenny Lister, curator of fashion and textiles at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. “It fell out of favour following the French Revolution only to make a comeback during the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century and again in the 1960’s with Biba.”
The Industrial Revolution transformed the production of velvet, making is faster to produce and distribute and therefore making it more readily available to the masses.
Then came the 1900’s, where velvet quickly became a favourite — both in the fashion industry and in interior design. It was associated with glamour, art deco, and luxury.
From Then To Now
Since the revival of the beloved fabric in the 90’s, it’s had a constant soft spot for designers (both interior and fashion-wise) alike. Different versions of let show up in homes — from eclectic to Art Deco to Scandivian — to on the runway, where Prada, Gucci, and Fendi showcased their velvet collections.
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