IMITATION may be the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes it can come at a price.

In February 1949 the decline of Paisley’s once-formidable shawl industry was traced to the printed imitation. Mr W. Philip Mayes, director of the town’s Art Galleries and Museum, made the point when he spoke at a display of Paisley shawls, some of which dated back to 1805. The true Paisley shawl, he said, cost £20, and the purchaser had to wait some six months for it, but the printed imitation cost £5 and could be obtained in about a fortnight.

The printed shawl had appeared in about 1850, and its cheapness had produced for a time a popularity which caused producers of the true Paisley shawl to turn to some other attraction. “The prints were so clever that at five yards they were indistinguishable from the real thing”, he added.

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Seventy years after the passing of the industry, some 150 inquiries were being received at the Galleries each year from owners seeking information about their heirlooms. The inquiries, which were often accompanied by the shawls, 99 per cent of which were real ‘Paisleys’, came from across Britain, America and the colonies.

But today the Paisley Pattern is thriving. Last March it was reported that the luxury French label Hermès had consulted 1830s pattern books archived in Paisley to create a “Paisley from Paisley” collection of cashmere and silk scarves.