This teardrop-shaped pattern, found everywhere from shirts, dresses, ties and even homeware, shares a close relation with Kashmir. Although it’s origins are known to be in indoeuropean pre-roman cultures, it was the exclusive pashminas made in Kashmir that popularised this design in the West. And it came to Europe to stay.
The origins of the paisley design
The paisley pattern is more than 2.000 years old. Some remains of its European past are found in celtic art, however its origins are identified in Iran and the Mughals, who ruled central Asia during the 15th and 16th century and who are responsible for the introduction of the motif in India, the boost of the Kashmir shawl industry and the artistic development of the paisley pattern. Ever since then, the paisleys have been the indisputable stars of the Kashmir shawl and the artisans of this Himalayan region have continued to embroider them and weave them with pashmina, wool and silk, as you can see in our Kashmir Shawl Atelier collection.
There is not much consensus over what it represents. In Iran, Azerbaijan and Kashmir, they call it botteh or bota, which means bush or herb, but it could also be a palm leaf or a bulb. Other theories say that it could be a cypress, the tree of life, or a fig opened in half.
How and when did the paisley become the vogue in Europe?
At the end of the 18th century, travellers, explorers, soldiers and members of the West India Company started to bring back to Europe Kashmir shawls, impressed by their beauty and softness. They soon became a fashion trend; between 1790 and 1879, they were and indispensable accessory for all stylish women. The ambassador of this fashion was the wife of Napoleon, Josephine de Beauharnais.
Paisleys were reproduced by millions in workshops of Persia, India and Russia, being the most desired those woven in Kashmir. Its exclusivity and high price triggered the textile industry in England and France to produce imitations that were sold at more popular prices. Paisley was adapted to Western taste and the printing techniques gave the paisley a more sharp and striking form. One of the major shawl producing towns in Europe was Paisley, in Scotland, hence it’s name.
The paisley, nowadays
Although the paisley pattern stop being fashionable at the end of the 19th century, it was the hippy movement that reinvented it and gave it back its splendor. The attraction for exotic and psychedelic music and the relation that music bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or Jimmy Hendrix established with India made the paisley a symbol of disconformity and rupture with the preceding sober fashion.
Ever since the paisley has been constantly reinventing itself. This summer paisleys have been a crucial touch to getting a festival chic or a boho chic look. And looking at the current fall/winter season, it has become a dominant pattern in many collections. A sign that this organic motif is so adaptable that can survive fashions and continue evolving.
In Kashmir Shawl Atelier we love paisleys! They are part of our history. In our collection you will find shawls and stoles with paisleys of all kinds and made with all the different techniques that are used in the valley of Kashmir. Check it out and get the hot accessory of the season!