Printed cotton fabrics were first developed in India during the Indus period 2600—1800 BC, a culture richly skilled in cotton spinning, weaving, dyeing and printing. At this time cotton was completely unknown to Europeans and the Japanese. The Portuguese were probably responsible for developing the trade in printed cotton fabrics during the Age of Discovery in the 15 century.
The name Sarasa derived from the Gujarati word for “excellent” or “beautiful” and was adopted by the traders as the name for these Indian printed cotton fabrics. The trade spread from the middle of the 15th century towards both Europe and the Far East. These highly patterned cotton chintzes with rich colours were a hit as remember that to many this was a new fibre and cloth that was durable, soft and light.
Trailing plants and flowers were a dominant theme in the Indian design which reached a pinnacle during the 17th century Mughal period when many artisans from Persia migrated to India and brought with them not only new techniques but also geometric and floral motifs such as Paisley.
In Japan these fabrics were terribley expensive prized by the Daimyo lords and other members of the highly esteemed and trend setting samurai class. Rather as with Paisley prints in the UK, during the Edo period (1615–1868) demand fueled the development of local production. Imported cotton was dyed and decorated using stenciling techniques exploiting the Japanese skills in paper and blade making for stenciling and the carving of intricate wooden blocks as their Indian counterparts.
Decorative prints and intricately woven fabrics are still a very important part of Japanese textiles today. It seems fitting that we move from a strong print trend for Chinoiserie to Sarasa florals and geometric designs. These will sit perfectly alongside paisleys and make for a rich print season.
We have raided the library and the new collection from Sublitex to find some exciting Sarasa style prints for you