From ecclesiastical vestments to opulent upholstery, AnOther brushes up on the tactile history of velvet
What could be more seductive than an ornate chaise longue covered in plush pink velvet? The silken fabric, so distinguished by its short dense pile and luxurious finish, first entered popular consciousness in the 14th century from the Far East, where it was historically passed along the legendary Silk route from Arabic countries to the Italian cities of Florence, Sicily and Lucca. Such was its grandeur and capacity to maintain richly coloured dyes that velvet was initially reserved for the production of ecclesiastical vestments and opulent wall hangings. It wasn’t until later, when it passed from Italy to neighbouring European countries, that the material gravitated from the church to the palace and the esteemed upper classes, coming to be used for everything from carriage interiors to clothes and upholstery.
Nowadays, velvet retains something of its historical decadence, evoking the luxury of yore with just a hint of grandmotherly charm. Its singular texture is almost sensual in nature – indeed, with the onset of online erotica the term ‘pink velvet’ has come to be used as a synonym for softcore lesbian pornography – creating a titillating alternate identity to its otherwise girlish nature. In fashion, the rosy-hued textile has grown to be seen as paradigmatic of feminine extravagance, from Dior’s hedonistic S/S05 collection, in which majestic ballgowns worthy of Marie Antoinette featured undulating velvet frills, to Britney Spears’ wedding to Kevin Federline, at which her bridesmaids wore pink Juicy Couture tracksuits in velvet’s little sister, velour.
This photograph of a delightfully kitsch pink velvet sofa was AnOther’s most Loved this week, selected by assistant producer Beth Mingay. Below, she tells us about the interior deco references she can't resist, and the Lagerfeld quote about pink to live by.
Why did you love this photograph of a pink velvet sofa?
“It sounds strange but I have always dreamed of having a pink velvet sofa set – with matching chairs, the ones with the metal frames – as I just think they are gorgeous. Instead I have dark green velvet, which doesn't give a room the same vibe…”
If this sofa belonged to you, where would you put it?
“Probably in my spare room, which I'm trying to convert into a reading room/walk in wardrobe.”
What’s your favourite colour, and why?
“To wear, black. To look at, peach pink. Sort of a dusky shade.”
What’s your favourite quote about pink?
“Obviously Karl Lagerfeld’s: “’Think pink, but don't wear it.’”
What’s your all-time favourite interior decorating reference?
“A blog called Apartment Therapy, full of DIY and beautiful ideas. I’m planning on pink statement walls throughout my flat thanks to this article.”
What are your plans for the Halloween weekend?
“Im having a cosy night in with my best friend, planning on making a halloween cake, watching Tim Burton films and Nightmare on Elm Street, and drinking cocktails!”
What’s the last thing you bought?
“The last thing I bought myself (apart from food) was a cosy jumper from & Other Stories, it's navy blue which is completely out of my colour zone (black) but I adore it already!”