From cheent to chintz, and back

Chintz is fashion’s first print. It has traveled across continents and transformed over the centuries, but its roots are here, in India. The name derives from the word cheent, and at Nicobar, we’ve chosen to go with the original label. Those floral bursts on white, originally hand block printed onto quilts and clothing in the South, were adored by early traders and colonizers: the French, British, Portuguese, and especially the Dutch. It found its way onto every textile – clothing, upholstery, bedding – and even wallpaper. (If you’ve ever read a 19th century English novel, chances are that chintz walls play a significant symbolic role relating to the protagonist’s psychological state.)

The print became so coveted in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries that both France and England banned its import, because their local mills and factories could not produce cheent. Still, fashion-forward royals in the court of Versailles continued to wear it. Eventually, European manufacturers were able to reproduce it, and the print developed as they experimented with styles.

Why has Nicobar made cheent a signature print? Our creative director, Simran Lal, told us that, “First of all, it’s pretty! And the roots are very, very Indian.” It was designed with its rich indigenous history very much in mind. For the first run, Nicobar’s version of the floral clusters has “a light spring feel.” And there’s more to come: “It won’t be just for a season. We’ll play around with it – colours, flowers, scale – in different collections. It’ll be a regular feature for Nicobar.”