A summer classic, 5,000 years in the making
Madras is made exclusively for Orvis in one of the world’s hottest climates. Pure cotton madras cloth comes from India, where cotton has been hand-woven into fabric for more than 5,000 years. India’s long tradition of textile production lends a distinctive air of craftsmanship to our men's and women’s patch madras clothing. This lightweight fabric is ideal for summer—it breathes so well because it is woven in a 60/40 thread count, keeping the fabric light yet strong.
India manufactures about 6 billion yards of fabric every year, more than half of which is woven by hand. Textiles are a major factor of the nation’s economy—thanks to the climate, which is ideal for growing cotton, and the skill of millions of native craftspeople. Traditional madras, named for the city where it was originally made, is a fine cotton fabric, yarn-dyed with vegetable dye in solid colors or plaid and striped patterns. These organic dyes ran or ‘bled’ every time the madras was washed, developing a telltale blurred effect over time.
Today, most madras is still made in southeast India, but it is dyed with stable chemical dyes to prevent this loss of color. Our madras clothing is made of end-to-end madras. This pastel-hued fabric is woven by alternating dyed and white yarns in the warp and weft, resulting in a subtle depth of color. The bolts of end-to-end madras are then cut into squares and sewn back together to make another single piece of fabric, a process perfected in India. Even our word patch comes from India-it's an abbreviation of the Telug word pach'chadamu, meaning "two pieces of cotton cloth joined together." By the late 1700s, patch was commonly in use in English, defined as "thin pieces of cloth at Madras."