Smart & Curious

A list of curious facts

One: Thanks to PaperClip, we went down the rabbit hole looking for the history of chintz—the fabric whose name comes from the Hindi word chint, meaning “‘spotted’, ‘variegated’, ‘speckled’, or ‘sprayed’.” It all started when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached Calicut in India in 1498—and discovered its great beauty. But the craze for it in Europe would become a profit-making machine that involved slavery.

 

It fell out of fashion in the 19th century—and made a brief comeback in the 80s thanks to brands like Laura Ashley. But chintz was finally consigned to the dustbin of the deeply ‘uncool’ by none other than Ikea, which ran a ‘Chuck Out Your Chintz’ ad campaign in 1996. Though Billy Porter wore it to London Fashion Week in 2020…

 

FYI: According to The Heritage Lab: “The traditional process of making chintz – mordant and resist-dyeing, involves hand-drawing with a bamboo pen (kalam) or printing with blocks; the complex and laborious (23-step) process was impossible to replicate.” Our favourite example below is this Palampore print with Japanese-inspired cranes, pines and waterwheels created for export to Europe somewhere between 1725-50. For more details we highly recommend this BBC News’ historical deep dive and Heritage Lab’s look at how Indian fabrics changed the world.

 

Two: The latest beauty trend is something called ‘jello skin’—which is about mimicking the “bouncy, plump properties of Jell-O.” The reason: “That plumpness and elasticity is an indicator of ample collagen levels in the skin.” FYI: unlike other social media-fueled skincare fads, no one thing can help you achieve this magical effect—apparently “it’s a whole lifestyle.” And yet this CNN ‘trend report’ features an entire list of products…odd. Also: is there something called ‘not-brown-people’s problems’? In any case, here’s an example.

 

Three: Did you know there’s a fascinating South Karnataka tradition where babies who died in childbirth are married to one another? Not after they die, but years later once they become “adults.” @anny_arun documented one of these rituals—along with video clips. To say more would do it injustice. But you can see the tying of the mangalsutra below. Check the thread out here.

 

Four: The first made-in-India soap was called Chavi—or ‘key’—rolled out in 1919 by Godrej which was better known at the time for making locks. The big sell: it was made entirely of vegetable oil unlike European soaps. More amusingly, Godrej soon got the biggest and most unlikely brand ambassadors to pitch its soaps in the name of going swadeshi. These included Annie Besant and Rabindranath Tagore. Conde Nast Traveller has more.

 

 

 

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