How did the colours and designs of Indian fabrics influence the development of French fabrics?
The East India Trading Company (Compagnie des Indes Orientales) introduced fabrics from India in the early 1600s. When these stunningly printed cottons came into Marseilles the intricate patterns and striking tones and colours dazzled the French. This was the start of the modern cotton industry in France. The French called the fabrics calicots (for Calcutta), chints (from the Hindu word for the cotton fabrics) or simply Indiennes.
These Indiennes are some of my favourite fabrics and whenever I can I ensure that I have a range of these historic fabrics in my collection. Typical colours at that time were golden yellow from various sources – flowering broom,saffron or sunflower petals – reds from madder plant (even going through to black)and flaming scarlet (from kermes, a local insect) – blue from indigo, oak gall and pastel – subtle brown from brazilwood – colours from local flora and fauna. Over the years this style of fabric developed into being very popular and typical features to this day are the paisley shape (a shape from religious festivities in India), flowers, trees, birds, animals. It is still manufactured today in typical Indiennes designs by companies such as Souleiado, Les Indiennes de Nimes, Les Olivades and Valdrome.