The Paisley Pattern changed everything

The Paisley Pattern changed everything for Paisley.

It has been worn by everyone from Queen Victoria to The Beatles. It is instantly recognised across the world. And it is as iconic and fashionable today as it was when it put a small Scottish town at the centre of the global textile trade

The beautiful Kashmir shawl originated in India in the 11th Century. The teardrop motif was its most popular and recognisable design.

The designs made their way to western Europe in the latter half of the 18th Century. They became a symbol of wealth and status among upper-class women.

The Paisley shawl began as an attempt by European manufacturers to imitate this rare and expensive product. Producing the Kashmir shawl on looms required an extremely high level of skill and technology. Only a small number of weaving centres in Europe were placed to meet the challenge.

Paisley was one. Paisley weavers had developed expertise and technical skill while producing fine silk gauzes and figured muslins. They were well-equipped to take on the weaving of these ‘imitation’ shawls.

Until this point, weaving had been something of a cottage industry. But the introduction of the jacquard loom and the innovations of the Paisley weaving industry – such as improving the hand loom process to involve five colours rather than two, and developing the idea of the sub division of labour – helped take shawl manufacturers into the factories.

A global icon

By 1834, shawls with a value of over one million pounds were being produced in Paisley. They became even more fashionable in 1842 when the young Queen Victoria is said to have purchased 17 of them!

By the 1860s, trade peaked with over 71 shawl manufacturers operating in the town and making, the colourful, fashionable ‘Paisley’ shawl affordable and accessible across the world.

In 2017, an expert panel convened for the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology named Paisley shawls as one of 25 objects that shaped Scotland’s history.

Paisley Museum and Art Galleries has the largest collection of Paisley shawls in the world. It is certified as a Recognised Collection of National Significance to Scotland.

Hermès designs Paisley from Paisley collection

In 2018, prestigious French fashion house Hermès teamed up with Paisley and the town’s globally recognised Pattern for their spring/summer collections.

The team from Maison Hermès were invited to visit Paisley Museum and the magnificent 850-year-old Paisley Abbey to view the collections and selected the wonderful designs for adaption into a Cashmere Chale Scarf, a Silk Gavroche Scarf and a Bangle.

The Maison Hermès offers all seven versions of the chale in each colour pattern developed and have also donated versions of the Gavroche and the Bangle to the town, to be displayed and archived for Paisley Museum.

Hermes Gavroche

Hermes Gavroche

The project was born thanks to Penny Martin, Editor in Chief of The Gentlewoman magazine, who contacted Hermès’ Women’s Artistic Director Bali Barret about the special place and opportunity which Paisley represents.

The Hermès collaboration is part of the ongoing work to transform Paisley’s future by retelling its internationally-significant heritage and cultural story and become one of Scotland’s top destinations – which includes reconnecting the Pattern to Paisley and a £42m transformation of Paisley Museum and Art Galleries into an international-class visitor destination.

This collaboration with Maison Hermès will showcase Paisley and its unique textiles collections to industry and consumers around the world, who can visit and help the town and its people, build connections, and support the development of the commercialisation of the collections for the town and its communities.

When the day’s work was over, they issued in a stream from the orate, their hands and arms stained with all the colours of the rainbow, and they made the streets lively on the way home.

Matthew Blair
The Paisley shawl and the men who produced it, 1907

The Paisley Pattern is our global brand that has inspired makers both in the past and today.

Jean Cameron
Director, Paisley 2021 Bid

Explore Paisley and Renfrewshire's textile heritage