25 Oct 2009

A Textile Heritage (Part 2)

Maybe we took it for granted back then, but most of the clothing, upholstery, table, bed and bathroom linen which were available for purchase from the independent high street specialists down to the Parisian chain stores and the modern hypermarkets, were made in France.

I grew up in the firm patriotic belief that ‘homegrown’ was best, as it was all we knew and satisfied our requirements: cheap in price, abundant in quantity, reliable in quality and design, trusted in know-how and expertise. It also kept the economy going and fed mouths.

As we are only too aware, the demise of textile, not just across France but elsewhere in Europe and North America, has been – to say the least – spectacular, with established textile dynasties going bust and making way for the cheap imports and the tat! When once upon a time, my hometown boasted dozens of production mills providing employment to thousands of workers, today is a different story with only one textile mill, Bochard, still in activity, with less than a dozen employees…

If the industry is clutching at straws in Picardie and other declining northern French regions, it is still nonetheless trying to maintain a reputation for quality and tradition by producing table, bed and bath linen that may not necessarily compete in price with the cheap imports from the Middle & Far East, but which surpasses them on the overlooked parameter of quality. A parameter that the supply-chain guys employed by big retail organisations will sadly overlook as they nurture their bottom line and ROIs...

Below is the photographic testimony of this ruthless end of an era, with La Cotonnière de St-Quentin during demolition in 2008 (© Ministère de la Culture/ Région Picardie - Inventaire général/ Ville de St-Quentin).

I, the humble customer with a discerning taste that ‘traces its origins back to my own origins’, will carry on purchasing those items, out of love and principle, and because they represent a textile heritage that is linked to my own history.

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