Turkish Textiles History

One great way to see the cultural distinctiveness of any nation is through its clothing and the fashions people wear. Clothing is manufactured from textiles or fabrics and cloth made from natural and/or synthetic fibers. Turkey, formerly known as the Ottoman Empire, has a history that stretches back to antiquity, and its textile industry goes back just as far.

While Turkey was the Ottoman Empire (1299 through 1922), textiles were an important part of their economy and a feature of the nobility. Any textile sold was a part of the empire’s treasury which in those days belonged to the sultan (king) and the royal family. In this way, textiles and the wealth of the sultan were interchangeable illustrating the importance of textiles in the Ottoman Empire. This fact also indicates that Ottoman textiles had to be of high quality, and were considered to be a luxury item.

As far back as the year 1502, Busra was the hub for the Ottoman Empire’s textile market, and as all textiles belonged to the royal family their sale and manufacture were controlled by the state. Any Turkish textile merchant had to follow rules and procedures to sell their wares in Busra, and those who disobeyed these laws were met with swift retribution. The rules all textile merchants adhered to were found in the ihtisab kanunameleri, and most of the procedures listed in this manual were explicit in their requirements.

No silk merchant could follow their own devices for weaving silk as everything from the materials used, the thread count of the silk fabrics, and the weight of the textiles created was strictly monitored. Merchants couldn’t even use their own gold and silver embossment threads as these too were monitored by the state and manufactured in state-run textile workshops called simikeshaneler. Any threads used for this purpose had to have the endorsement of the government, or never made it to the Busra marketplace for sale.

As soon as garments (especially silk) were finished they had to be sent to state officials called muhtesip to be ironed, measured, and inspected. Muhtesips ensured that all rules and procedures of the ihtisab kanunameleri were adhered to before any textile could be sent to Busra for sale.

This type of rigorous supervision facilitated the high quality of all Turkish textiles. It also provided for the creation of textiles that were distinctively Turkish and unlike any others produced the world over.

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