Chintz – An Indian Fabric Banned Because Of Popularity

Chintz was an Indian fabric that was banned in Europe because of its popularity and threat to local industries.

Chintz — although it might today be largely associated with twee or cutesy armchairs and wallpaper — is, in its true form, a fabric that was not only once highly prized the world over, and helped revolutionize fashion and design, but also changed the course of history.

The history of chintz extends far beyond that. Chintz — which comes from the Hindi word chint, meaning “‘spotted’, ‘variegated’, ‘speckled’, or ‘sprayed’, as Fee writes in the book Cloth That Changed the World — originated in modern-day India and Pakistan thousands of years ago. Contrary to what many think, chintz does not necessarily have anything to do with glazed fabric, or even floral prints. Simply put, chintz is cotton to which substances called ‘mordants’ and ‘resists’ — used to help dyes adhere to it — have been applied.

Before it appeared in fashion, chintz was big in interior design. Indian chintzes in Europe, were coveted as elite home furnishings, particularly to beautify small antechambers and bedrooms with colorful carpets, wall coverings, and bedcovers.

More costly Indian chintz had a glazed finish which added a stiff, luxurious hand. The intricate patterns were painstakingly produced by hand in two main ways: either with wooden blocks or through the more complex process of kalamkari.

India has been producing and exporting chintz for millennia, but it wasn’t until the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama successfully reached Calicut in India in 1498 that Indian chintz really started to create a stir around the globe.

File:Coromandel chintz.jpg
With imported chintz becoming so popular with Europeans during the late 17th century, French and English mills grew concerned, as they did not know how to make chintz. In 1686 the French declared a ban on all chintz imports. In 1720 England's Parliament enacted a law that forbade "the Use and Warings in Apparel of imported chintz, and also its use or Wear in or about any Bed, Chair, Cushion or other Household furniture".

Over time, the word ‘chintz’ came to be used to refer to a variety of fabrics. The term was appropriated in the English-speaking world in the 18th Century to refer to industrially printed cottons.

By that time,(1851) Britain’s factories had flooded world markets with cheap imitations of chintz, industrial imitation, which made it widely available to the masses, disassociating any original connotation of luxury.

Chintz has many times come in vogue since then.

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