While in France my cousin and I visited several stores, a factory and a museum that all specialized in Provençal fabrics. The gorgeous fabric was originally made in India and the process was brought to France through the port of Marseille in the mid 17th century. The Indiennes stylized fabric, which is often referred to in England and America as chintz, featured bright and cheerful flora and fauna. As it was affordable and easy to care for it became an instant hit.
“The Couturier's workshop, Arles”~ Antoine Raspal, 1760
The French locals soon started producing their own version of the cloth. A playing card manufacturer, Benoît Ganteaume, and wood engraver, Jacques Baville, were the first to apply their card printing techniques to cloth. Once the design was applied, layers of color were added. But the dyes used were inferior to those in India.
“Brothers Wetter Textile Factory at Orange” ~ Joseph-Maria Gabriel Rossetti, 1764/65
In order to take a controlling role King Louis XIV had his Minister of Finance, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, create the Compagnie des Indes (East India Company) in 1664. Armenian fabric weavers and dyers were brought to Marseille to share their skills with local producers.
No surprise, the Indiennes fabric became all the rage at the French court. As the cost to produce the fabric was far less expensive than silk and wool French factories in Lyon were forced to close. The manufacturers successfully lobbied the government to have the import and production of the Indiennes fabric banned in 1686. The Indiennes manufacturers avoided the ban by moving to the Avignon region which at the time belonged to the Vatican and was under Papal jurisdiction.
Madame de Pompadour wearing an Indienne robe “Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame” ~ François-Hubert Drouais, 1763/64
The ban lasted 73 years. It was lifted in 1759 and Indiennes fabric once again became extremely popular. It was used in Provence for tablecloths, bedspreads and items of clothing. Men wore shirts, neckerchiefs and waistcoats while women wore skirts, scarves and aprons, sometimes several designs all at once.
Original Indiennes fabric had Arabic and Mughal art inspired flora and fauna.
After the ban was lifted one producer of cloth, Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf, set up a factory in Jouy-en-Josas. It was located near a river just up from the court of Versailles. The company focused on producing floral designs originally made in India. It grew into a large and successful factory. The fabric of the region became known as Toile de Jouy, often shortened to Toile.
It is easy to see the Provençal influence on the Indiennes fabric in the form of sunflowers, lavender, fruit, and olive themes.
It generally is produced in sunny shades of yellow, red and blue.
These fabric images were taken at the Les Olivades factory.
Les Olivades was begun by Léonard Quinche in 1818. His factory was located in the small Provençal village of Saint-Étienne-du-Grès (which you may recall is the same small village where we stayed at Mas Predon). In 1948 the company was sold to Pierre and Paule Boudin. Their son, Jean-François Boudin is the current director of the company and several other family members are also involved.We happened to meet Monsieur Boudin while visiting the Paris store.
Can you tell it was very hot and humid that day? :)
My cousin is a fabric artist who creates beautiful quilts and she purchased some fabric from the Paris store and we discussed with Monsier Boudin that we also would be traveling to Provence and staying in the same small village as his family’s factory. There is a shop there as well that is open to the public but factory tours must be made in advance and generally with a group of 10 or more. We were VERY lucky to be given the opportunity to see how such lovely fabric is created.
There is a short video of the creation process of the fabrics in the factory you can see HERE.
In the village of Tarascon in Provence there is a wonderful museum of the history of French Indiennes fabric at Souleiado, another producer of cloth.
It’s a bit of a hunt through several small, winding streets to find Souleiado but well worth your time.
You know you are headed in the right direction when you pass under the arch with the gold Virgin.
Then past the town theater.
We finally just parked and walked the rest of the way. But you could go right up to the door if you had one of these:
The museum itself does not allow photographs due to the delicate age and nature of the fabrics in their collection. It is housed in a charming old building.
There was great detail on how scarves were folded and pinned in place and the lovely quilting on the skirts and petticoats.
1 Rue de Tournon ,75006 Paris, France
Chemin des Indienneurs,13103 Saint Etienne du Grès, France
39, rue Charles Demery, 13150 Tarascon, France
What color and pattern would you choose?
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