From small rural town in Renfrewshire to John Lennon’s Rolls Royce, Paisley is one of the most striking stories of Scottish design and production. Set in the west central Lowlands, the town’s long textile tradition hit the mainstream with the arrival of silk gauze weaving in 1759. Several manufacturers moved from London to Paisley and richly ornamented Paisley gauzes became haute couture across Europe. With the introduction of industrial cotton spinning, the Paisley weavers turned to muslin manufacture and, later, shawl weaving. In 1805, they brought out an imitation of the Kashmir shawl, produced in Kahsmir since the 11th century and popularized in Britain by East India Company imports.
Soft, elegant, and intricate, the Paisley shawl became the town’s main product throughout the 19th century. By 1850, there were over 7000 weavers working in the town, crafting ever more elaborate designs such as this eight-colour arrangement of pines, scrolls, and floral motifs. Such was their success that the distinctive teardrop or seed-like form, derived from the Persian buta (بته), become known in Britain simply as Paisley — later a go-to motif for William Morris, Oscar Wilde, Liberty Prints, Prince and The Beatles.
Words by Eliza Apperly.
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