Although this popular motif, the paisley, originated in the East, it has become a worldwide fashion staple named for a town in Scotland. The intricate, tear drop shape developed from the Persian “boteh” and is believed to be based on a bent cypress tree symbolizing fertility and prosperity. Adaptations appeared across India by the 16th century with variations in form and name that reflect the diversity of each region.
By early 1800s, Western fashion designers had become obsessed with Kashmir shawls, a fine accessory featuring stylized versions of the paisley image that are woven from the soft, wintery undercoat of the Pashmina goat. These luxxurious and intricate textiles could take a skilled weaver years to produce by hand and were prized gifts from Mughal emperors and Imperial maharajas.
By 1820s, the town of Paisley, Scotland became the leading producer of imitation Kashmir shawls for Western markets. The new Jacquard cord system reminiscent of early modern computers. These affordable copies flooded the market and drove down demand for the Indian original among Western consumers. The paisley has been a global fashion ever since.
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