HOLISTIC SILK RETREAT A HISTORY OF VELVET

Think velvet and what do you see in your mind’s eye?  It’s about the magical watery 3d look, but it’s also about the feel.  There’s nothing quite like real velvet for a soft, sumptuous texture and when it is silk velvet the feel is even more wonderful, flowing through your hands like water, heavy and super-luxurious.

So, when did velvet arrive on the scene?  As it turns out it’s the fabric of royalty, a material that has delighted connoisseurs for thousands of years.  Let’s explore the history of a fabric that makes so many of our sleep and relaxation and wellness products special.

First, how is velvet made?

Velvet is made from millions of very fine threads.  A special loom is used to weave two sheets of material of different thicknesses closely together, one on top of the other.  Then the layers are carefully separated to leave the soft thick pile effect we love so much.  You can imagine how the process was an extremely labour-intensive task, leaving the finished fabric only accessible to the very wealthy.

Where did velvet originate?

The first velvet appeared in ancient Egypt and China, dating back to 2000 BC.  The fabric was traded along the famous Silk Road to medieval Europe from the 1300s onwards.  In Europe itself the cities of Venice and Genoa in Italy were some of the first to produce velvet.  The opulent Renaissance period saw it inspire artists like Michelangelo, who actually made his own velvet fabrics and Leonardo da Vinci, who found the process of making it fascinating.  It was a challenge to paint, and as we have discovered to photograph!,  but the old masters managed it and the results are stunningly real-looking.

What was velvet used for – and by whom?

In the Renaissance velvet was used by the rich for everything from clothing to wall coverings, from religious robes to lavish costumes for royalty.  Henry VIII even commissioned a velvet toilet seat and Hampton Court Palace was decorated richly with opulent velvets too, the ultimate in interior decor luxury.

It wasn’t just a matter of the expense.  Laws at the time called the ‘sumptuary laws’ meant only a few people were allowed to buy velvet and other luxury products.  The laws also specified the colours people were allowed to wear, but because velvet was dyed with extremely expensive and rare dyes, it was way out of ordinary people’s reach anyway.

In the 1800s the industrial revolution brought velvet into the public’s reach for the first time as it was no longer made by hand.  Oddly it fast became the Bohemian choice, bohemians being an early version of hippies.  Oscar Wilde adored velvet, as did the actress Sarah Bernhardt and millions of their fans followed suit.  In the 1960s it was a popular suit material for men, also used to make dramatic flared trousers and fancy waistcoats. 

Modern velvets

Modern velvet can be made from natural fibres including  Silk with a Rayon backing, Cotton which makes a less luxurious but still lovely fabric, linen, mohair, wool and even raffia palm like they do in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it’s called Kuba velvet.  There are also purely synthetic versions available made from materials like polyester, nylon, viscose, acetate and numerous creative blends of natural and man-made fabrics.

Velvet has come a long way over the past 4000 years.  Now everyone can afford it.  But it still comes with that mysterious beauty, still feels extra-luxurious and special.  Contemporary velvet fabric is just as indulgent as ever, loved for it sheen, softness and silky texture, made into lush ball gowns, beautiful suits and outfits for special occasions.  We use it to enhance many of our fantastic luxury relaxation, wellness and sleep products, taking this magical fabric full circle so you can enjoy it to the max.  

HOLISTIC SILK RETREAT A HISTORY OF VELVET- SILK VELVET HOT WATER BOTTLE
HOLISTIC SILK RETREAT A HISTORY OF VELVET- SILK VELVET SLEEP MASK

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