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This season’s darling: Velvet, a closer look to its becoming

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The runway season of a/w 2016 has shown an  unusual amount of velvet. From fluid rich outfits to small details, many designers have made use of this formerly aristocratic fabric.

The past few years velvet has not been seen, and became almost forgotten. This season velvet is back, with added texture and a hint of luxury to London W11 cashmere designs. Fine details of crushed velvet along the edges add a spark of chic to our luxury cashmere designs for a timeless look.

Velvet gets its name from its magical texture not its fibre. It is woven, characterised by its pile (the raised loops or tufts) that cover the surface. This short and dense pile brings the soft shine to the fabric and captures the light in its unique way. There are many different kinds of velvet, each with their very own character. For example, crushed velvet involves twisting the fabric when wet in order to distort the pile; this gives it a more textured look that departs from the typically smooth surface it is known for. Another technique involves using chemicals to remove the pile from the surface of the fabric to reveal a pattern; this is referred to as devore. Velvet has historically been made from silk, but can be created from a variety of fibres, such as rayon.

There are many myths about the history of velvet, but the only fact we know is that it has a strong association with European nobility, and there is a strong belief that its roots are in Eastern culture. Pieces of velvet featuring low, untrimmed piles were found in China dating back to several old dynasties, including the Qin (circa 221-206 B.C.E.) and the Western Han (206 B.C.E. – 23 C. E.). Samples have also been found dating even further back, as far as 403 B.C.E during the Warring States.

Iraq was also one of the first producers of velvet, as was Egypt. The production technique was complex and time-consuming making it an extremely high-end luxury good, available only to royalty and the very rich.

Once the Europeans discovered this beautiful Eastern textile, velvet entered into trade along the silk road. Italy was the first European country to create a velvet industry for itself, which yielded wild success to many Italian cities that were involved in the craft of velvet-making. Buyers were wealthy and velvet was used in many luxury products such as furniture, clothing, upholstery, curtains and even wallpaper.

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The Renaissance was a high point for velvet production, particularly the intricately patterned velvets typically associated with the time.  As mentioned, Italy was the leading producer, followed by Spain. Renaissance velvets were decadent pieces, often woven from silk and threads of precious metal such as gold and silver. Customers for this luxury were the church, or rich families ordering customised fabrics bearing their coat of arms.

During the Industrial Revolution velvet production became mechanised; easier and faster to produce. Therefore, this fabric having been the ultimate luxury became cheaper and more widely available. The association with luxury stuck however, and it was still used in garments favoured by the upper class to add glamour to an ensemble. During the 1920’s for example, evening gowns and shawls were frequently cut from velvet, often the devore version mentioned earlier. These decadent patterned fabrics became synonymous with 1920’s fashion.

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Velvet has gained a special place in the classic fashions of other decades as well. The glamorous vibe of the 1970’s was a perfect match for this luxe fabric. Additionally, the 1980’s and 90’s had a love affair with crushed velvet and devore, and both were frequently worn by pop culture icons of both decades.

Velvet is luxury by origin, a perfect match to other natural luxurious fibres such as cashmere and silk. Taking this rich but playful fabric to add it as a detail to our effortless chic London W11 cashmere garments was intuitive; creating a design which is beyond time.