During the 1960s and the decades that followed, many young people travelled to Central Asia and the Far East in search of adventure and truth. Some discovered that it was possible to pay for their travels by buying textiles and selling them ‘back home’. Some are still in the textile business today.
As a result of this exchange, new textiles and garments found their way onto the Western markets, stimulating fashions for Oriental rugs and clothing styles. Fashion designers, such as Mary Quant and Vivien Westwood, used Eastern forms and designs as the starting points for new creations. Fashion movements such as Boho-chic (Bohemian-chic) continue a centuries-old tradition of consuming and re-interpreting the East.
Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, European textile manufacturers, especially printing companies, produced textiles with Asian-inspired motifs and designs. Sometimes these were taken directly from Asian textiles, others were ‘inspired-by’ or were simply clichés.
Not surprisingly, the degree of accuracy varies considerably, such as in the use of ‘Chinese’ characters, for example, on a cloth designed to impart a ‘flavour of the East’, even if the characters are upside down or totally made up.
There are also groups of Western textiles that are based on 18th century European textiles that in turn were inspired by Asian originals. In these cases it is hard to say where the ‘West’ ends and the ‘East’ begins.