The paisley pattern shows “multiculturalism” is not a new concept. “Paisley” is the European way of referring to boteh motif. Its trace leads us from Persia to Scotland, spreading across Asia as clothing princes, traveling as cargo to Europe on ships of the East India Company and finally conquering the world thanks to the hippies.

paisley1Via: Blasco & Blasco

Probably this pattern as a drop of water was born more than 2,000 years ago in Iran, as an evolution of ancient pre-Roman motifs. Although his drawing has been repeated during centuries, nobody knows exactly what it represents: a palm leaf, a tear, a flower, a cypress, a mango…

paisley2Via: Anthropologie

In times of Mughal dynasty in Iran, this pattern was omnipresent. It was woven with gold and silver threads on silk, and used to decorate palaces or make clothing. But also it appears in jewels and crowns. When in the sixteenth century the Mughals extended their influence across Central Asia to India, the pattern was adopted by the artisans of pashminas from Kashmir.

paisley3Via: Urban Outfitters

These pashminas cost a fortune. It is estimated that a craftsman could spend more than a year to make just one pashmina, using silk and goat hair (the very expensive “cashmere”). Pashminas were a male garment, highly attractive for Asian princes try this.

paisley4Via:  B&B Collection

In the eighteenth century, officials of the East India Company sent the first pashminas to UK, and immediately became a luxury item in Europe. Josephine Bonaparte was a lover of pashminas.

paisley5Via: Pottery Barn

From Kashmir to Paisley Pattern

Tradition relates that precisely when the Napoleonic Wars blocked international trade in Britain, a small textile merchant in Edinburgh called Paterson, desperate because he could not deliver an order of pashminas, commissioned some weavers of the town of Paisley to try to reproduce them. They were so successful, since then the looms in this small Scottish town specialized in this pattern that became known as paisley print. Shortly later, the pattern was also printed on fabrics, which cheapened their costs and allow its use also in decoration.

paisley6Via: The Zhush

Only in the early twentieth century its influence began to wane. But then the hippies came, fascinated by the Indian exoticism, and everything begings again… As other ethnic fabrics that we have seen on our blog (ikat, batik, kilim and shibori), paisley tells us a little of our history and makes us travel across time and continents.

paisley7Via: Pinterest.