Reports | 25 05 2020
Natural silk, gold and silver based fabrics have been traditionally woven in Damascus, dressing up sultans, princes and kings. They have always been known globally for their quality, accuracy and texture, mainly "Brocade", "Damasco" and others, which are still catching attention around the world, being still considered as the best so far.
Damascus was globally known for its "Brocade" (Damasks) cloth, associated with the name of the city. The wedding dress of Queen Elizabeth II "Queen of Britain" was made using brocades cloth in 1947, in response to the special request of the Syrian Embassy in London. Marie Antoinette, wife of French King Louis XVI, the last French king, wore the same fabric, too.
Brocade is one of the most famous, prestigious, and expensive Damascene old fabrics, hand-woven using gold, silver and natural silk threads for centuries. Damascenes managed to master the production of such cloth in Syria and were able to weave it using bright and colorful threads. Thus, brocade has become associated with Damascus.
Damascus started manufacturing brocades, since the 11th century, using cotton threads at first. Then, it has gradually developed into natural silk threads replacing cotton, according to Dr. Reem Mansour al-Atrache in her book entitled Silk in Syria.
In the modern era, traders in Damascus used to call Anton Mizner the king of the brocade. He was the first to promote the brocade industry in Damascus.
Brocade comes in two different types depending on the elements used with the silk, in addition to customizable various colors. Some of these types are woven with golden or silver threads, ensuring warmth in winter, and freshness in summer.
The brocade is woven using wooden loom, and is made from natural silk produced at Duraykish in Tartus governorate using silkworm, gold, and silver. This gives the cloth more importance and beauty, as well as a high price and a refined taste and inspiration, for it contains different drawings using various colors, such as human figures, animals, or certain plants.
The brocade was woven using a "manual loom" at first. Then, it has developed into electrical machines. Currently, only five factories in Damascus are manufacturing brocade.
Turkish fashion designer Erhan Akçay, owner of Elrozo Company, told Rozana that he is interested in Damascene fabrics renowned worldwide, especially Damasco and brocade.
Despite the conditions Damascus is currently going through, it is still exporting brocade and famous fabrics to Turkey.
Akçay also told Rozana that his designs rely mainly on the Damascene brocade in particular. The beauty of its designs and colors inspires the designer to create oriental designs having a contemporary aspect.
"Despite the conditions Damascus is going through, Akçay was able to bring brocade from Damascus to Istanbul thanks to his Syrian friends; a journey that could take up to 10 days after having hours of video chats between him and the Damascene merchants with an interpreter, to make the choice of fabrics. The process is difficult, especially since he cannot touch the cloth himself," he said.
Akçay pointed out that "the quality of the Damascene brocade cannot be available elsewhere. Therefore, buying the cloth from Damascus is worth all the trouble and the cloth’s price per meter ranges from 50 to 100 dollars depending on the number of colors ... Even Turkish tailors can identify the Damascene brocade thanks to its silky texture and its distinctive golden threads."
It is a kind of silk fabric that resembles the brocade, and is called "al-Washi", i.e., the cloth tipped with inscriptions. It is woven using hand looms, mainly the Satin, Tilbury and Majdalawi. Arabs took Damasco to Andalucia. Thus it has become associated with Damascus.
Damasco fabrics are distinguished from the brocade thanks to their geometric or plants inscriptions, which do not stand for figures or history as the brocade. These fabrics are also known for the large size engravings characterized by repeated patterns, unlike the brocade, which offers small drawings with little repetition.
Is cotton silk textile, woven in Damascus using hand looms, offering various forms , and coming in different names (Indian, Egyptian, octagonal, serrated, Itafi, cotton, and Kamkha).
They are made using hand looms, and are engraved in the form of long colored lines, and used to make doilies, upholstery, and Arab Abbayas, according to Uttu Textiles.
Is the cotton version of the "Alaja", which is silk-based. The first to invent "Dima" fabric was a Damascene man named Abdul Majid Asfar and then Hassan Khanji joined him.
Some consider Dima an imitation of Alaja made from silk and cotton threads. These fabrics are woven using hand looms in old Damascus neighborhoods.
It is a fabric consisting of silk thread embroidered with gold and silver. The production of "al-Aghbani" started originally in the city of Damascus more than 500 years ago. Damascus and Aleppo became then famous for its production. Then, it was transferred to the rest of the governorates.
Turban and luxury bed sheets as well as table covers are made with this fabric currently. The fabric has printed drawings, and each one of them has its own name such as "Joclan, Chrysanthemum morifolium and seven-pointed flower."
Today, al-Aghbani fabric is made of high quality Syrian cotton in different workshops, the most important stage is the embroidery carried out by women.
Damascene families often used to put al-Aghbani cloth on the tables, and the guests would say in vernacular “are you putting al-Aghbani?”, and the hosts would answer “we did for your sake”, to brag about it and show the extent to which this fabric is uniquely special.
Syria is one of the most famous countries for breeding natural silkworms, previously ranked fifth among the countries of the world, according to Agricultural Media in Syria.
Syria's silk industries, such as Brocade and Damasco are among the best in the world and are still gaining popularity in international markets.
Syria's production of silk cocoons in 1856 was estimated at eight tons; five tons of which were exported to various countries. However, production declined to reach 6,000 tons in 1913 to fall to about one ton in 2011.
Silkworm breeding has declined for a number of reasons, namely the competition of artificial silk with natural silk production, the difficulty of marketing handmade silk products due to its high price and high production costs, as well as the expansion of some fruit trees such as citrus at the expense of mulberry tree.
Tartus is the governorate with the highest rates of silk manufacturing. It is famous for the silkworm breeding, where it is concentrated in "Drekish, Banias, Safita, Sheikh Badr", in addition to some other villages in the rural areas of Hama and Latakia.
It is noted that China is the world's largest producer of natural silk, accounting for about 65 percent of the world's production, according to the Economist website.