‘Madras’ to Manhattan: How Desi Checks Became a Global Fashion Centuries Ago!

International trade, a few dark chapters in records and the booming fashion industry have been all instrumental in taking the common-or-garden striped pattern of fabric from the ancient fishing town of Madrasapattinam (Madras, which is now Chennai) to world-famend style indicates. The Madras take a look at has performed many roles in its adventure from being the dailywear of fishermen and paddy farmers to the desired attire of the visiting, prosperous Americans and sooner or later, the icons of excessive-give up clothing manufacturers.

Believed to be one of the first signs of colonisation, the Madras tests had been standard of the South Indian area-worker before the 1200s. The hand-woven fabric turned into crafted from the “tip-skin” of local Tamil timber and the sample used become no longer what you notice these days.

In the new, and humid coastal areas of and round Chennai, a best muslin material become reduce into 36-inch squares and revealed on with wood blocks and vegetable dyes to add a pop of colour. These squares had been then tied around the waist and worn as lungis.

Jaya Jaitly, the founding father of Dastkari Haat Samiti, an agency that deals with nearby crafts, informed the DNA that it became in the main labourers, toddy tappers and farmers who wore the plaid lungis.


Of direction, it changed into no longer with a experience of fashion or fashion that the plaids have been designed, however in the coming centuries, after visiting to the Middle-East and Africa, the Madras plaid would make its presence felt in the international fashion developments!

By the early 13th century, the plaid lungi had travelled to the Middle-East and Africa, where it went from being bottom wear to turning into a scarf. But it become the colonising Dutch who would begin the export and mass manufacturing of the Madras exams which became the catalyst for its spread throughout the globe. When the Dutch reached the seashores of Madrasapattinam in 1612, they commenced trading the calico fabric (named after the cotton obtained from Calicut).

Barely 14 years later, the British followed.

Francis Day, who became main the Tamil Nadu expedition of the East India Company determined this muslin fabric published in vegetable dye. He noticed an opportunity to alternate it remote places and obtained a license permitting the exchange of the Madras assessments at the 22 August, 1639 which changed into then taken to African nations like Nigeria where Madras lungis have become ‘Injiri’- actual India. Although the imposition of British trade became exploitative of its colonies, Injiri have become the Nigerians’ ‘connection’ to their ancestors, the spirit international and ‘their commitment to a life properly-lived.’

Another account also says that it was the Scottish, the ‘peacemakers’ between Indians and the colonisers, who encouraged the Madras exams. However, the sample have been normal of the South Indian fisherman centuries earlier than the British arrived with several money owed disproving the theory.

As the tide of imperialism grew to become, the colonisers left their colonies but small and huge stories remained of the travels of the Madras assessments. In 1958, as an example, William Jacobson, an American textile importer, had travelled to India searching for this material. By then, the cloth had lost its suffix and become regarded around the globe surely as ‘Madras’.

Jacobson located Leela Lace Holdings Pvt Ltd, a firm that produced a vivid model of the pattern that smelled tremendously of the vegetable dyes and sesame oil it changed into made from. Impressed by the ‘exclusive’ sense of the material, he sold it to the renowned Brooks Brothers. The founder of Leela Lace had warned Jacobson that the machine washing addiction of the Americans could no longer work on Madras and that the dyes will bleed. Jacobson left out this warning till Brook Brothers needed to complain to his agent about the bleeding 10,000 yards that have been sold across america.

This unique and novel idea had appealed to the rich and prosperous American just like Jacobson. And the brilliant colorations, normal of the Madras, have become the favored preference for their holidays. Through the past due 1900s and the early 2000s, the Madras made its look on ramp walks, on men’s and ladies’s style magazines and within the wardrobes of influencers. Of route, it has long past through changes over the centuries, from a handmade, vegetable-dyed lungi to a device-produced fit, but the essence remains proper of the Indian subject worker.

Some argue that we have been simply awaiting ‘white popularity’ to appreciate the sample however a fabric that has travelled throughout the seas and oceans can’t be decreased to a mere fashion declaration. Its records is as wealthy as the fabric in terms of tour, alternate, fashion and tradition.

Duane Simpson

Internet fan. Zombie aficionado. Infuriatingly humble problem solver. Alcohol enthusiast. Spent several months exporting UFOs in Jacksonville, FL. A real dynamo when it comes to exporting gravy in Tampa, FL. Spent 2001-2004 implementing saliva in Edison, NJ. Had moderate success getting my feet wet with junk food on Wall Street. Practiced in the art of building Virgin Mary figurines in Tampa, FL. Practiced in the art of marketing Roombas in Phoenix, AZ.

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