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A brief history of velvet

I'll admit it. I'm a velvet addict. From my days as a nineties kid dressed in crushed velvet cardigans (cheers mum) to my current pink velvet sofa situation, I've always had a soft spot for the look and feel of this plush number.

We typically associate velvet with noble heritage in Western culture - you only need to get stuck into an episode of The Tudors for a royal fix of the fabric and rumour has it that Henry VIII even lined his lavatory with the material. However, velvet is believed to have originated from Eastern culture with pile weaves, woven using silk and linen, analysed as being from 2000 BC Egyptian civilisation. At the time, the technique to create velvet was so complex that it was available only to royalty and the very rich. Other samples were found in China dating back as far as 400 BC but while the thought was there, the technique was not, and it was not until the Renaissance between 1400-1600 that production of this woven tufted fabric was at its peak.

Seduced by the soft qualities of velvet, Europeans introduced it into trade along the Silk Road; an ancient network of trade routes that connected East and Southeast Asia with East Africa, West Asia and Southern Europe. Italy was the first European country to have a velvet industry and applications included high-end clothing, furniture, upholstery and curtains, but still it remained largely for the rich and wealthy.

During the Industrial Revolution, velvet production improved and became more widely available, catalysing a spurt in the fabric among the glamorous and the fashion-conscious. From the 1900s, velvet was a staple in both the fashion and interiors worlds. Evening gowns and suits were commonly cut from the fabric while Edwardian furniture such as chaise longues and dining chairs were typically upholstered in patterned devoré styles. The art of devoré became synonymous with the 1920s and Art Deco, something which has stood the test of time and can still be seen in homeware to this day.

From the 1970s onwards, velvet was a favourite among celebrities, making it highly coveted and easily accessible to popular culture. The glamazons of the 70s incorporated it into kimonos, floating dresses and bell bottoms in fashion and via mustard yellow and brown furniture to complete their "far out" homes. As pop icons progressed, so did velvet, and lovers of the 1980s and 90s instead opted for a visibly crushed look, not to be confused with velour. Yes, I have the photos to prove it.

Backtrack a couple of years from today and you'll find that the internet was awash with the breaking news that velvet was back on the agenda. Catwalks were blasted with tailored suits, gothic gowns, intricate embroidered jackets - the list goes on - and in true trend style, the material hastily filtered back into the world of interiors. Soft velvets in sweet pastels have been hugely popular in bohemian homes while strong colours such as emerald green and orange have become firm favourites in mid-century abodes. From Scandinavian design to an eclectic approach, there's a place for the fabric in every room.

Soho Home have been using velvet in their collections since their inception and while most velvets are now made from polyester, Soho Home use 100% cotton for a more luxe finish and a natural 'crushed' appearance over time. The versatile yet upmarket nature of the fabric has seen its popularity soar in the modern home and there are no signs of it going anywhere again fast.

If you're looking to make a real statement, the Manette bed provides the ultimate wow factor. The velvet fan headboard comes in a turmeric colourway, bang on trend this season, and features champagne cording to really show off the detailing. The perfect fit for any Daisy Buchanan. Shop my picks below for the ultimate velvet pieces to add to your own collection.

Follow Emma Jane at and @emmajanepalin.