Fine print: The origins of Indian Chintz

As a British brand working ethically with artisan print makers in India, we feel a passion and responsibility to share the story behind the true origin of the prints and motifs that we use in our products; to shine a light on the incredible textile heritage of India that has become the DNA of Dilli Grey...

The history of Indian chintz

Chintz, as a pattern is having a revival, with many current makers and brands referencing a traditional English, or Dutch 19th century inspiration to this new wave of maximalist floral design.

Yet chintz as an aesthetic originated in the 16th century on the Coromandel Coast of India - derived from the word chint in Hindi, meaning 'varigated or speckled' - floral and animal prints were hand-block printed or resist dyed on white-based calico or linen and used as decorative textiles and later on fabric wallpaper and ceramics.

The Indian Chintz trade

India attracted international trade initially for its gold, spices and gems, but soon to join the list of desirable exports was the richly adorned print textiles, to fill the fabric houses of Europe - with more than a million pieces being imported into England a year by 1680, they drove a whole new 'fashion aesthetic' amongst the royal court and aristocracy.

So popular was the chintz aesthetic that the domestic wool and textile mills of England and Europe became concerned that the highly skilled, ornate textiles were overshadowing their own sales, so much so that by the early 1700s all imports on Indian chintz were banned and British and French mills began developing their own chintz fabrics; copying methods and designs from the authentic chintz mills of India, providing replica fabrics as a fraction of the cost.

Respecting the origins of Indian Chintz

When creating textiles referencing chintz designs, we feel passionate about ensuring the people making our products are those with whom the skills and cultural heritage originates.

We work directly with family run 3rd and 4th generation block-print companies as well as supporting up-and-coming textile designers, passionate about creating a new modern vision for block print, who create bespoke chintz designs for Dilli Grey.

Our latest 'Indian Chintz' collection


Our 'Indian Chintz' collection for autumn includes a range of bold, traditional chintz designs, including our 'Pondicherry Paisley', 'Winter Jasmine' and 'Malabar Chintz' prints. 

Working collaboratively with our artisan teams we have revisited archive prints, recolouring them for a modern take on the heritage designs and used them across our limited-edition sleepwear range for Christmas, as well as our brand-new tablelinen collection.

Made slowly and authentically...

All our hand-block prints are carved by hand onto 'blocks' of indigenous wood (usually mango), then printed on organic cotton using gentle eco dyes which are mixed by eye, then laid by skilled printers before being washed to fix the colour and dried slowly in the Rajasthani sunshine - without a single machine from start to finish, just as it was done in the 16th century.



To learn more about the chintz heritage and slow textile process, watch this video from Kalamkari Craft Film:


The Indian Textile Sourcebook

Cloth That Changed the World - The art and fashion of Indian chintz

The Fabric of India

1 comment

  • Liesel Cubitt
    Thank you for this interesting nugget of information, I have always wondered about chintz’ the word and the origin. It’s something we freely mention for a blouse or table cloth but with no real understanding- until now.

    Liesel 💡

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