The Ottomans ruled a vast empire spanning six centuries and three continents, from North Africa, across parts of Arabia, the Balkans and up to the gates of Vienna. This mighty dynasty was governed from Topkapı Palace on the Golden Horn of the Bosphorus, Istanbul, until the dissolution of the Empire in 1922. The Sultans’ power and influence was immense, inspiring generations of weavers and artisans to produce opulent and luxurious textiles to reflect their imperial status.


Picture of Ottoman Sultan Osman Gazi

Ottoman Design

At the peak of their power between the 15th and 16th century, thousands of beautiful fabrics were commissioned by the ruling Sultans. Characterised by delicate peony blossoms, undulating stems and pomegranate fruits, these precious fabrics were so valuable that they came to be treated as currency. 
As a show of the Empire’s wealth, elaborate ceremonies were often conducted through the streets of Istanbul. Emerging from the Sublime Porte of Topkapı Palace and dressed in a new silk design for the occasion, these spectacular parades involved every member of the court; from the children and family of the royal household, to the Grand Viziers, right down to the Sultan’s elite soldiers known as the Janissaries. When a Sultan died his most lavish kaftans were treated with a cocktail of cloves, cinnamon and special herbs to protect and preserve the silk. They were then wrapped in tight bundles and placed around his sarcophagus where they remained untouched for many hundreds of years in the treasury under Topkapı Palace. 

Silk Production

Silk caterpillars feed only on mulberry leaves. Upon maturing, the caterpillars excrete a fibrous glue which they move around their bodies more than 130,000 times in order to weave a cocoon. When unravelled, this cocoon can produce up to 1500 metres of continuous silk yarn.  Bursa,  Turkey’s silk capital was the hub for sericulture and where the silk was weighed, graded, dyed and most importantly, taxed. The most talented artisans and designers were then sent to Topkapı Palace to weave these beautiful fabrics into soft furnishings and clothing for the Imperial Household. So desirable were these fine fabrics that they were also made into honorific garments for courtiers, foreign ambassadors, and visiting merchants who supplied secular and ecclesiastical robes to the palaces and churches of Europe and Muscovy. Their silks was the very finest to be found anywhere in the world during the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Revival

Today Ottoman Silks seeks to emulate the opulence of those iconic designs. With only 100 metres of pure silk cloth commissioned at a time, these fabrics are almost as exclusive as their original influences and have been congratulated by academics and textile producers alike for their quality and authenticity. They are still woven in Bursa on jacquard silk looms and tailored in our Istanbul workshop near Topkapı Palace. With the help of our master craftsman, Suleyman, we are able to turn these luxurious fabrics into tailored garments of the very highest standards. Details include fine interior pockets inside every kaftan, hand-covered buttons and hand-stitched lining.

Our long term aim is to re-establish an independent silk hand weaving school in Turkey in order to preserve the ancient techniques of a bygone Ottoman era and pass these skills on to the next generation of hand weavers today.