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Why the name Paisley?

Paisley is a small textile town in Scotland, just outside of Glasgow. It was the birth town of Kirsten's Great x 4 Grandfather who emigrated to Adelaide in 1839. The town became famous for making women's shawls in the 1800's in the boteh pattern, the pattern we now know as paisley. Thinking about all the fun we could have with our packaging and product names, Paisley Wines was born. 

The Origins of Paisley

A big thanks to Patrick Moriarty, a fashion designer in the UK and his awesome website www.paisleypower.com for this helpful history of the paisley design.

Ancient Babylon in present day Iraq is claimed to be one place of origin of the paisley form, possibly dating back to 1700BCE. Another common theory is that it originated in Persia 200-650 AD during the rule of the Sassanians who created an empire who's armies kept the Romans at bay for centuries. This empire included what we know roughly as the Middle East, the Caucasus and central Asia. Their culture continues to influence Persian identity right up to the present day. 

The symbol can be best described as a similar shape to a curving teardrop or a kidney. The symbol was called boteh (the Persian word for shrub or cluster of leaves) which is visually a combination of a spray of floral elements and a cypress tree. Centuries later the shape was called Buta almond or bud. The buta shape is the national symbol of Azerbaijan to this day, it symbolizes fire and is most commonly seen on their bright intricate woven carpets and rugs. The paisley shape could also be an adaptation of the yin-yang symbol used in ancient Chinese medicine and philosophy.

Many different cultures have used the paisley symbol and consider it to represent many objects including a cashew fruit, a mango or a sprouting date palm, an Indian symbol of fertility. The symbol’s shape varies dramatically in different countries from an Indian pine-cone to a Russian cucumber. 

Paisley can possibly also be traced back to Celtic tradition. Before the Roman empire’s influence prevailed in Britain, Celtic patterns were used on many highly-decorated metal objects.

The paisley pattern evolved mainly in The Kingdom of Kashmir. During Mughal Emperor Akbar's reign (1556–1605), shawl-weaving production increased dramatically. It’s weavers absorbing influences coming across the borders from nearby China, Middle East and India. Woven paisley shawls were mainly worn by men for ceremonies. These early shawls did not display the paisley shape as we know it today but a curving flower with leaves and a stem, the roots of which have striking similarities to Chinese calligraphy. The way in which symbols from different cultures appear in the development of the paisley pattern show how weavers translated artistic influences from imported ceramics, documents, fabrics into their own designs.
 
The East India Company imported paisley shawls (adapted from the Persian word shal) from Kashmir and Persia to Europe in large quantities from around 1800. The designs were specifically tailored to cater for each regions particular tastes. In Europe the shawls were worn mainly by women not men. The designs might depict exotic scenes of people on elephants riding past palm trees. 
 
British production of woven shawls began in 1790 in Norwich, England but to a greater extent in 1805 in the small town of Paisley, Scotland. Roughly equal quantities of imported Kashmiri and home-produced British shawls were bought in Britain in the mid 19th century. The former retained their popularity despite their much higher prices. The main reason being that cashmere is actually hair from a goat and these fine hairs are soft and provide excellent insulation. Cashmere was therefore preferred to sheep's wool which was regarded as much less luxurious.  Also the superior Kashmiri looms produced fully reversible fabric with many more colours. Initially the British shawls were only 2-colour, usually indigo and madder. At it’s peak from c.1850 -1860 the town of Paisley employed 6,000 weavers. 

 

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