Cotton, silk and linen are used since around 5,000 BC where they first appeared in India, Egypt and China.
What do Persia, India, China have in common? They are all important foundation ground for the textile, later joined by Turkey, Italia and Japan. Why? Because that’s mostly in regions where the plants are grown or animals are located (think about the Chinese silk worm) that textile developed first.
From producers to final clients through the traditional trade routes. From the East to Europe. The main merchant route of the ancient world has even been named the Silk Road, borrowing its name from one of the most precious source of fabric. Remember that silk and linen were always favored by the riches, while the rest of the people settled on more common materials.
In fact, like wine and precious metals, fabrics have been a very important part of the trades around the world since the beginning of the modern era. Trade on the Silk Road were very important for the development of the great civilizations of China, Persia, Egypt, India and Rome and paved the foundations for a modern world.
Today it’s not rare to see, as an example, Textiles sold in the USA made in Pakistan. Why so far apart? Because textiles are usually produced the nearest to the source of raw materials. Then garments themselves are produced in a much higher variety of countries.
Until the early twentieth century, textiles were mostly derived from plants or animals. The advent of the industrial era marked the beginning of research, development, and innovation. Many of today's textile producers even started as chemical companies. Think of today’s companies like Dupont or Bayer, they are the kings of Lycra, Dacron and other modern fibers.
Textiles can be derived from several sources: animals, plants and minerals as well as petroleum-derived synthetic fibers.
Aristocrats and riches always wore their social status on their clothes. They always tried to dress to impress and showed their rank through the use of rich textiles. It was obvious to determine who was the king in the room. Some pieces of cloth were made with gold and silver laces more than 2000 years ago.
Usually the pieces of cloth were used to distinguish the social classes and even the different jobs or functions. The king had to set apart from the commanders who had to set apart from the knights who had to set apart from the courtesans and so on… Today, we can see things didn’t evolve much! Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, all layers of population started to imitate or be inspired from the richest outfit. In today’s fast fashion industry, it’s not uncommon to see a piece of mass market cloth in store 6 weeks after its original inspiration hit the catwalk at the occasion of a fashion week.
Besides the social influence, we should not forget that textiles also provide a very interesting point of view to look at any society. It gives a cultural distinction and artistic appreciation of a civilization. That’s why pieces of cloth or even tapestry have their places in most historical museums around the world as they help us to understand our past. Think about the famous tapestry of Bayeux as an example. This 70-m long embroidered tapestry was used as a political statement, explaining the reasons for the conquest of England by William the conqueror. It is of course biased and told the story from the Norman side. We can’t help to see similarities with politics today.
People use socks to flash or make a statement. I remember this trader, I once knew, at an international bank who always used his vibrant red socks to stand out of the crowd and depart from his very conventional dark grey outfit. The tendency initiated by youngsters to show off their underwear was in rage a few years ago. Once again it was a statement, a status symbol.
At simple we always preferred comfort and convenience over status symbols. That’s why we will always prefer a nice cut and a nice fabric to the brand label written on the waist. It doesn’t mean that we don’t like brands, but we say it should not be the first choice of criteria. Think about the form and the fabric first, brand second!