In Linen

Updated: Aug 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
The Egyptians wore it and so did we back then. Linen, made of flax vegetable went out of style but it does get overlaid sometimes by the fabric of the moment. Right now its back on top as the sheik of chic in both fashion and furnishing.

The beauty of linen is that is a very luxurious fabric, echoes fashion designer J J Valaya. Designer Raghavendra Rathore is more emphatic: Its the fabric closest to khadi and in that sense it strikes our conscience.

Many homes today still cherish heirloom linen, especially tablecloths and napkins. Perhaps it lasts because itsmade of the strongest vegetable fibre with nearly thrice the strength of cotton. When the tomb of the Pharaoh of the Exodus, Rameses II, who died in 1258 B.C - 3,000 years ago - was discovered in 1881, his linen wrappings were found in a state of perfect preservation.

Circa 2004 designers and international retail chains are all out to grab mindspace for linen. As a fabric, linen was always hot. It looks simply royal in summer, exults fashion designer Ajay Mehra.

This season Spanish label Mangos linen collection has found a lot of takers. Mangos linen pants and shirts are priced between Rs 1,350 and Rs 1,800. J J Valayas linen collection is priced upwards of Rs 2,000 and the fabric is used in both his labels J J Valaya and Studio Valaya.

Did You Know

Linen was the earliest vegetable fabric to be woven
There was an established linen industry 4,000 years ago
Linen is associated with purity
Highly absorbent, pure linen is also a natural coolant. However, constant creasing in the same place in sharp folds will tend to break the threads

Linen is derived from flax bast, a fibre taken from the stalk of the plant. The lustre is a result of the natural wax content.

Creamy white to light tan, this fibre can be easily dyed and the colour does not fade when washed. Linen does wrinkle easily but also presses easily. Linen, like cotton, can also be boiled without damaging the fibre.

Linens aristo status comes from its high maintenance need (which implies hordes of scurrying servants to care for it). Says Rathore, In that sense it is an aspiration fabric. If executives wear linen shirts and trousers, it sends out a message to others. It says I have arrived in life. This must be the one instance when looking crushed (and nothing crushes faster than linen) is a fashion advantage.

Obviously, linen costs. One metre of cotton retails upwards of Rs 45 while linen is more than Rs 300. But linen blends like linen cotton, linen lycra and linen wool are making inroads in the market and are a cheaper alternative. Linen blends give the masses a chance at this fabric says Ajay Mehra. The love affair with linen is here to stay, assures Rathore. So how come we still dont have linen saris

Reported by Aparna Ramalingam