The toil and joy of Toile de Jouy: Surface design technique

February 8, 2017

                                                              (Image source: Pinterest)


Have you ever found yourself in a quagmire where putting tongue to your thoughts seemed like the most difficult thing in the world? Well, it keeps happening to us all the time, especially when we are exposed to something awesome and pretty and divine. Our design team comprising the resourceful quasi-hobbit humans is perpetually in search of decorative textile arts. On one such quest, they tumbled on toile or what is also known to many as ‘toile de Jouy’.

For those of you who don’t know what toile de Jouy is, here is a glorious specimen of it –

                                                                  (Image source: Pinterest)


Toile has been around for centuries now. Its popularity, though in state of flux, carries on like a classic style that stands tall, come peaks or valleys. Just like the storied vignettes, the patterned fabric itself has emerged from a rich yarn.

Toile de Jouy which translates as cloth from Jouy, gets its name from a small village called Jouy-en-Josas. Located just a few kilometers away from France, this place is important to our narrative as this is where our protagonist, Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf birthed this marvel. So let us familiarize you with the premise of this eventful story.

With East India Company’s burgeoning presence in the market, it was only a matter of time for indigenous specialities from other countries to make their way into Europe. Indiennes or Indian cottons voyaged to France in the 16th century and people took instant shining to them as they ticked all the right boxes - they bore exotic flora and fauna prints, came in varied colors that didn’t fade easily, and most importantly were easy to maintain.

                                                                       (Image source: Pinterest)

The indiennes quickly usurped the spots held by national players like woolen and silk, something which obviously didn’t bode well for the future of local textile manufacturers. Sensing the potential damage it could wreak on local business, France announced a complete embargo on cotton thereby preventing its domestic production and importation. Like all banned things, cotton too, though officially prohibited, took to unofficial ways to satisfy its demand. It came to be produced surreptitiously until 1759, the year when the ban was revoked. Here is where our protagonist, Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf enters.