From Canuts to young designers

The modern aspect of Lyon's traditions is expressed in many areas, and silk is no exception. Young designers and industrial textile groups are constantly drawing on this tradition of silk-making, and promoting the Jacquard heritage.

Last updated date : 10/01/2019

The history of silk in Lyon goes back to the 16th century, when its exclusive trade was entrusted to the inhabitants of Lyon. "La Fabrique" included traders, foremen and journeymen, and laid down the organizational rules of work. From the late 18th century onwards, competition in this sector was harsh. Silk underwent important technical and social revolutions, such as the revolts of the silk workers, called Canuts, in 1831 and 1834. Know-how was, then, already marked by innovation. The weaving loom invented by Jacquard is even seen as the ancestor of computers.

On the middle of the 19th century, during the golden age of silk, the Croix-Rousse district where the Canuts lived and worked, boasted over 100,000 weaving looms. The sector represented close to ¾ of the economic activity. Today the sector is once again faced with strong competition. But to set itself apart, Lyon's textile industry is relying on the old tradition of silk weaving to further its innovations. Although Lyon's silk is still used to furnish luxury companies such as Hermès and châteaux worldwide, it also inspires young designers. The industry has also opted for the technical textiles niche. A wedding dress made from fibre optics developed by Brochier is thus rightfully exhibited at the Confluences museum. Technological innovations have even taken Lyon into telecommunications and aeronautics, as with Diatex. 

Where can you buy samples of silk produced by renowned companies at unbeatable prices?
Head for the Silk Market during the LabelSoie festival in November to sort through designer fabrics manufactured by such companies as Prelle and Tassinari & Chatel.

List of silk and textile discovery sites 

  • Silk Workshop, Lyon 1
  • Museum of Textile & Decorative Arts, Lyon 2
  • Soierie Vivante, Lyon 4
  • Maison des Canuts, Lyon 4
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