What are some of the highest-quality fabrics the world has to offer, and how did they originate? You might appreciate the luxurious fine silk or dependable denim you have in your wardrobe, but you may know surprisingly little about its origins.
Let us get a quick snapshot of how some of the best fabrics in the world are made!
The highest-quality silk in the world comes from China. This dates back to the famous ‘Silk Road’ - a trading route that linked the two great civilizations of China and Rome. It allowed China to send silk westward to the Roman Empire, and it is still responsible for much of the world’s best silk production today.
China cultivates perfect silkworms which are able to produce long filaments of silk from their cocoons. After making their cocoons, it is important to carefully unravel them so that the silk yarn can be extracted and woven into clothes. This is a basic explanation of how the Chinese are able to produce high-quality silk which is a mainstay of spring and summer clothes like blouses, shirts and dresses.
Some of the finest denim in the world originates from Japan. This is because they produce denim using older looms (weaving machine), which create more interesting variations in the weave. Compared to modern looms which are able to make perfectly smooth denim, Japanese denim often comes with variations in the direction of the weave.
These variations, combined with the unique Japanese dying process, produces a beautiful denim that cannot compare to that produced in other countries. Furthermore, Japanese denim is traditionally heavy, meaning it provides that extra layer of warmth on a cold day!
Are you familiar with the knitted material championed by the likes of Gucci and Missoni? Regions of Italy like Bergamo are famed for producing knits with incredibly high-quality knitted linen, cotton or silk.
The reason Italian knits are so desirable is because it does a great job of mimicking the look and feel of woven fabric.
The story of wool began in the Stone Age, when people first used sheep wool for clothing and shelter. As the quality and desirability of wool gradually increased over the years, Spain became one of the leading countries in the world for trading the fabric, being able to fund the voyages of Columbus and the Conquistadores partly through its success in the wool industry.
Over time, other countries capitalized on the popularity of wool, with the USA creating the famous Spinning Jenny. This machine made use of water-powered looms to accelerate the production, and therefore the growth, of the wool industry.
Wool is still a highly-desirable material today, offering warmth in the way of blankets, throws, scarves and hats.
Jack Vale is a writer in partnership with Italian linen retailer, Linoto.