Velvet is an unusually soft and beautiful fabric and because of these characteristics velvet has been often associated with nobility. Evenly distributed in the woven fabric Velvet can be made from synthetic or natural fibres. Since, its loom was different and hard to construct, the cost of the fabric was automatically high. Moreover, velvet was traditionally made with pure silk and silk has been always a royal fabric.
How Velvet Acquired this Status
Velvet was woven on a particular loom that wove two thicknesses of the cloth at the same time. The two pieces were then cut apart to create the mass effect, and the two lengths of cloth were wounded on separate take-up rolls. This difficult process meant that velvet was costly. Velvet was difficult to clean because of its pile and its pile is created by warp.
Velvet was first introduced by Kashmiri merchants under the rule of Harun Al- Rashid in Baghdad somewhere between 786-809 AD, because of its unusual softness and difficult composition velvet soon became one of the most expensive fabric of that and soon acquired the status of royalty in the society.
Expansion and Export
Due to its popularity in Mamulk Era (roughly 1250- 1517), Cairo started exporting most of the fabric to Venice. The result of this expansion was that Cairo again made its name in Velvet production and export.
This expansion was extended to West Africa as well. The ruler of Male Empire (1312-1337 AD), Musa I of Mali once visited Cairo while he was going to Mecca for his pilgrimage. When Musa I went back to his kingdom Timbuktu, many weavers of velvet from Arab accompanied him. As time passed, the status of velvet started touching new heights and the effect was so astounding that Velvet was worn by people on special occasions. It was mentioned in Ibn- Battuta’s book that the ruler of Mali, Suleyman, how wore a locally produced velvet caftan of crimson red colour on Eid.
21st Century’s Scenario
It is relatively easy to prepare fabrics like velvet in high scales, all thanks to the advanced machinery. However, in the ancient times, industrial power looms were not available. Special care and extra time was taken to produce this fabric. So, velvet was produced using specific weaving techniques and was not available for the ordinary people. Because of all these factors, it was considered as an exquisite fabric.
It still holds its old day position because velvet is fairly an expensive fabric even today. Velvet can be made from quite a lot of different fibres, conventionally, the most high-priced of which is silk. Much of the velvet retailed today as “silk velvet” is actually a blend of rayon and silk. Velvet made wholly from silk is scarce and usually has market prices of several hundred US dollars per yard.
So, you can imagine how costly would that be and that is why, velvet is the fabric of and for royalty.