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Silk is a natural textile material obtained from the cocoon of the moth. It was first made in China. Silk technology reached several parts of Europe including France and Italy in the 12th century. Many of the French weavers in 17th century belonged to minority communities, and they had to flee to England in order to escape persecution. France and Italy were the leading manufacturers of silk during this period, but slowly England began to take an upper hand (Cotton, 1996). The silk capital of France is Lyon and is known for its world famous silk weavers.
In the 15th century, when it was established, it was the center of the silk industry in Europe. France is known for its fashion, and the silk industry seemed to be a boost to the French Fashion industry. It all began after the rule of Louis XI, and slowly silk production units were formed in Lyon city. Henry IV encouraged the production of raw materials for the silk industry by permitting silkworm production and cultivation of mulberry plants. During this period, France managed to meet its own needs for raw materials (Only Lyon, 2007).
Around the 17th century, when the silk industry was established in Europe, several countries including China, England, Italy, and France began to compete against each other in the production of silks. The Indian designs were a craze in Europe, and certain Armenian merchants actually bought this technology to Europe. Initially, printing of Indian designs started in the 1640’s in France, and slowly spread to England and Netherlands. However, Indian designs were not allowed to compete with French designs, and printing of foreign designs was actually prohibited by an Ordinance introduced by the King in 1686.
There were several fines and punishments for those who imported, made or sold foreign designs. There was a slight depression of the French silk industry during this period. However in 1759, due to strong opposition, Indian designs began to be permitted. This gave birth to a new industry in France. Towards the end of the 18th century, the French began to be more creative and tried to make designs beyond the Indian designs. Earlier, Indian designs were merely copied. In the Napoleons rule, silk business improved as he set a trend of using silk in his courts.
He gave a lot of importance to creativity (The Museum of Printed Textile Designs, 2007). One of the most notable inventions in the field of silk technology by the French was the invention of the loom by Joseph Jacquard, which automatically made patterns, and did not require any manual intervention from the weaver. It utilized a perforated card, which helped to automate the procedure. However, many people feared that they would become unemployed with Jacquard’s invention, and hence, his loom was destroyed. During the early part of the 19th century, slowly Jacquard’s loom began to be used throughout France and also abroad.
Later, this loom seemed to be a breakthrough in the British silk industry. They began to use power to work these looms and soon began production of silk on a large-scale basis. In this way silk was produced on a large-scale basis. Even in France, Jacquard’s looms began to be utilized to make screens for the ceilings and the walls (Spartacus Educational, 2007). Traditionally, the French have come out with historic fashion collections, and even in the 16th, 17th and the 18th centuries, one of the most important materials utilized was silk for fashion.
Louis the XV and Louis XVI encouraged the use of blue silk in the French collection (Textile Museum, 2007). During the 18th century, the French improved their interests in silk technology. They developed artistic plates that could be utilized to place beautiful designs on the silk fabric. They also began to develop several process concerned with processing silk fabric including improving the conditions for rearing the cocoons, processing the cocoons, reeling out the silk, looming the silk, weaving, watering the cloth and printing the designs (Hossain, 2002).
This it can be seen that during these 150 years in history, the French silk industry was under-development. It has faced stiff competition from the silk industries of several of the surrounding European countries. The policies of the rulers seemed to boost silk production. People from other parts of Europe preferred to use French silk compared to others. The French fashion industry seemed to hype the cause of the silk industry.
References: Cotton, L. P. (1996), Silk production in the 17th century how it’s done, Retrieved September 27, 2007, from NHP Web site: http://www. nps. gov/archive/colo/Jthanout/SilkProd. html Hossain, R. (2002), Silk In Diderot’s Encyclopedie, Retrieved September 27, 2007, from Smith College Web site: http://www. smith. edu/hsc/silk/papers/hossain. html Only Lyon – Tourism and Convention (2007), Lyon, the capital of silk, Retrieved September 27, 2007, from Only Lyon – Tourism and Convention Web site: http://www. en. lyon-france. com/page/p-559/art_id-/
Spartacus Educational (2007), Silk Industry, Retrieved September 27, 2007, from Spartacus Educational Web site: http://www. spartacus. schoolnet. co. uk/TEXsilk. htm Textile Museum (2007), Costume, Retrieved September 27, 2007, from Textile Museum Web site: http://www. museutextil. bcn. es/english/colecc/i1. htm The Museum of Printed Textile Designs (2007), Printed Textiles from the 18th Century, Retrieved September 27, 2007, from The Museum of Printed Textile Designs Web site: http://www. musee-impression. com/gb/collection/xviii. html