Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

1.28.2013

All Cotton


I'm not sure if it's because textiles are literally lightweight, at least in comparison to say steel or lumber, but fabric is sometimes perceived to be a foofy subject. The reality, of course, is that textiles have sparked revolutions. Cotton cloth, in particular, has completely reshaped the world economy. With international textile trade being such a hot topic today (Cambridge University Press reports the business is valued at $425 billion), Giorgio Riello is taking a look back at cotton's pivotal role during the past thousand years. His soon-to-be-released book, Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World, delves into older forms of globalization.


Emile de Bruijn recommended the book to me because Riello explores exoticism too (think aesthetic exchange and design mash-ups between East, West, and points in between).  A professor at the University of Warwick, Riello has been widely published on many material-culture-related topics including shoes, design history, and again the cotton trade. He's also done a series of podcasts; in this one he and Rosemary Crill discuss chintz. Check it out while we wait for the latest book to hit store shelves.

10 comments:

The Devoted Classicist said...

Although there are no longer bales of cotton sitting on the sidewalk along Front Street in Memphis like when I was a boy in the 1950s, it is still a Cotton Town. If you ever visit, you won't want to miss the Cotton Museum downtown.

Style Court said...

TDC -- appreciate the tip! I'll have to investigate.

Style Court said...

Everyone -- here's the link for the museum TDC is talking about:

http://www.memphiscottonmuseum.org/about.asp

Lori said...

The general population does take cotton as a commodity and fabric for granted. I am always amazed when someone thinks that $30 or $40 a yard is expensive. If only they knew what went into that yard from the cultivation of the fiber to the spinning, dying, weaving, finishing, transportation and duties they would be amazed that it was actually available at that price.

Like any other crop it's value can be greatly affected by drought, floods (as in Pakistan a few years ago) and by world economic changes like developing economies (China) becoming bigger users. A couple years ago the price of cotton went to all time highs causing quite a bit of trouble in the decorative fabric market. Manufacturers were not able to get a price quoted until the goods actually went to weave! Price increases happened weekly and everyone involved took a margin hit at some point.

Thanks for the timely post and apologies for the lengthy comment:)

classiq said...

Thank you for the recommendations. I've just discovered your lovely blog via one of my favourite blogs, LatteLisa, and it's inspiring browsing it.
Ada

Style Court said...

Lori -- not too long at all. Your ideas are totally on topic :) Thanks for sharing.

Classiq -- welcome! And thanks for the kind words.

Emile de Bruijn said...

I like the term 'foofy' - I didn't know that word :)

Style Court said...

Emile -- I always spelled it "foufy" but the urban dictionary says foofy so I went with the latter :)

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

In the 19th century the wool trade was the equivalent of the oil industry today. Certainly cotton is the same kind of industry. Unless one is walking around nude, textiles are next to our skin almost all the time. And think of when we buy clothing for big events like weddings or graduation. It seems so elemental but i guess it's only fiber fanatics like us who think this way!

Style Court said...

Linda -- well said!