A Very Brief History: Original Madras Trading Company

A Very Brief History: Original Madras Trading Company

Named after its city of origin (now known as Chennai), Madras is a fabric traditionally hand-woven from cotton in checks and patterns. Although its popularity has been driven by a complicated history of colonialism and trade, the ingenuity of indigenous Indian craftsmanship remains at its heart.

In the 1600s, the East India Company found the port to be especially profitable for the cheap, high-quality cotton produced in the area. Whether the checked pattern, reminiscent of Scottish tartan, was originally woven by Indians or brought over by Scots enlisted in the British Army remains unclear, but the sustained popularity of the fabric does not. 
The prevalence of Madras in British fashion grew with King George IV's and later the Duke of Windsor’s penchant for sporting Tartan and Madras garments. In American fashion, the fabric gained traction when Elihu Yale, the governor of British-ruled Madras, donated yards of the fabric (among other things) to the university that would eventually take his name in the 1700s. This is where the fabric got its association with Ivy League and East Coast style.
Original Madras Overshirt in Navy/Green/Yellow

The Original Madras Trading Company is a third generation family business operating out of New York City and Chennai. The company, now run by Prasan Shah, was originally established by Shah’s grandfather upon his arrival to the United States from Chennai in the early 1970s. In the decades since, OMTC has continued to produce and supply hand-loomed Madras fabrics and garments, whilst remaining committed to the techniques of traditional production. 
While other brands have moved to industrial looms, OMTC remains steadfast in promoting Indian craftsmanship sustainably with a focus on small quantity, high quality, hand-loomed production. In shifting focus away from producing large quantities of garments, the company affords itself more flexibility to be creative and experiment with the patterns and details of their clothes, as well as give back to the community.

Original Madras
Original Madras Shirt in Ecru/Red/Khaki

As we continue to welcome new season arrivals into the store, we are proud to introduce the AW21 collection by the Original Madras Trading Company; their characteristic checks this time re-imagined in brushed cottons and winter weight fabrics in a distinctly autumnal palette.

The new AW21 collection from OMTC is available to browse online and in store now.