The Fabrics of India: Origins & History

India is a huge and diverse country filled with an equally diverse range of fashion and styles. With this comes a demand for different textiles and fabrics which are used throughout the production process to help make utterly unique looks for a multitude of different events and occasions.

Such subsistence's date back thousands of years, as does the dying of said fabrics and many other methods, which the fashion industry has used throughout time. In fact, there are cotton threads that survive to this day with origins that can be placed as far back as 4000 BC as well as dyed fabrics which can be traced to just 1500 years later in the region of 2500 BC.

With this history in mind, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight artisans and craftspeople who use an astonishing range of skills to process raw materials and produce the renown designs we have on offer so you can understand more about the design process and the dedication behind these distinctive dyes, weaves, prints and embroideries.

Natural resources

As a base for textiles and fashion design, India has all the natural resources you could ask for. Firstly, being such a huge country means that there is simply a large area with which to play with. A variety of fertile land can be utilised in a range of ways to produce an equally wide range of materials. Natural dyes and plant fibres thus act as a perfect basis to begin producing a selection of cottons, linen and silk.

For centuries India supplied cotton cloth to the world, and until industrialisation drastically altered the way goods were produced, the country also made large quantities of hand-made fabrics. Regardless, the country still produces lots of fabrics locally with the raw materials at their disposal. What remains however, is a legacy of design inspiration using the country’s unique material base which our designs today infuse throughout their collections.

Cotton on a bed


Light cottons, dubbed “woven winds” by the Romans because of their airy nature, were among the finest of fabrics which Indian fashion used as a starting point. They are robust, so are ideal for everyday use, yet are generally delicate enough to craft something beautiful. As you can imagine, this form of cotton, which for a while was only produced to that degree in India, became highly desirable to the rest of the world.

With a variety of silkworms in the nation, silk itself was produced all over the country and had a range of results. They all have their own set of attributes which would make them desirable, so specific ones are often picked out to be used with specific designs. Different parts of the silk cocoon can give different textures, as does the way that it is spun out, resulting in the aforementioned variety of silk in the various regions.

With this fabric in mind, how stunning is this look by Anand Kabra which features a crepe silk kaftan with trousers to help you stand out from the crowd?


India was unrivalled with its natural dyes until chemical dyes were produced in the modern era. Indigo (the blue dye) was extremely popular, as was the red colouring which mordants brought. Similarly to before, having been around since 2500 BC, India’s natural dyes dominated the world’s designs by dyes, until manufacturing changed forever.

Dyed fabric with natural colour

We love how Ridhi Mehra plays with blue hues throughout their collection, such as this powder blue ensemble which includes an organza ruffle shirt, complete with jewelled embroidery and exaggerated sleeves, along with a monogram rope belt.

Block printing

The north and west regions of India used different methods to create patterns on their textiles with block printing. This is where they would use wooden blocks and different colours to press stunning and eye-catching designs onto their clothing. Modern dress fabrics often saw smaller, repeating, floral patterns which made them very distinct and recognisable straight away. These designs also varied from region to region so it is easy to identify where they originated from.

Weaving and Stitching

Another alternative way to create unique designs is with weaving and stitching. Gujarat was the main hub for the weaving fashion culture in India, although many areas had distinct styles. As people migrated out of Gujarat over time, styles evolved and changed over time.

Utilised as a way to create even more intricate designs, stitching also became well-known in India and evolved itself into a number of unique styles. These embroidered pieces were produced both in workshops and in the comfort of people’s homes with styles from places such as Bengal and Punjab becoming sought after. In fact, such foundations formed the history behind indo-western wear, revealing the demand and interest for mixing together fusion styles that combine western styles with Indian sensibilities.

Indian weaving

Flair and decoration

Textiles are often decorated with other materials or variations of them to give a particular style or look. For example, insect wings and cowrie shells have been used to add a bit of flair to certain pieces and give them a unique yet natural feel.

Extremely thin pieces of silver and gold can also be integrated into clothing by embroiders to create lavish pieces of fashion.

So if you are looking for a striking piece for an upcoming event, such as an intimate wedding, be sure to check out our favourite gowns, which we’ve curated at the best price and bring these details to life with your own style.

The methods and the results may have changed, but the artisan legacy continues today, and whether it’s people like us showcasing indo-western styles or any Indian fashion brand, the initial inspiration will always come from the natural history of India’s fabrics and fashion.