Textile Intelligence: Qiana
July 8, 2011 § 22 Comments
As colors, patterns and silhouettes come and go, so too do textiles. Cotton, silk and wool have endured, but other blends and synthetics proved not to be as timeless. One of those textiles that did not make its way into our current wardrobes is Qiana. I’d seen it in many fashion magazine ads from the 1970s, which you’ll find below.
According to this piece in a 1968 issue of Time Magazine, Qiana was introduced by Du Pont that same year. After 20 years, and $75 million dollars (almost $485m in today’s dollars) spent on developing it, this revolutionary synthetic textile was released.
Boasting qualities that are superior to the most luxurious silk fabrics, Qiana gives all the appearance of silk—from the luster of its surface yarn to its light weight, drape and color. Added to this, exotic sounding Qiana—a computerized combination of random letters—is a practical drip-dry wonder that can be machine-washed and still resist wrinkles. (Time, 7/5/68)
Looking at the ads below, it’s evident that Qiana’s disco-era arrival was timely. It had a silkier look than matte-jersey and could even be used for heavier knits (see sweater set above). Du Pont enlisted American designer Charles Kleibacker, a master of bias cut fashions, to create a Qiana collection for them, in order to promote their newest product. One of his Qiana gowns is shown at the bottom of the images. It actually looks quite beautiful.
There’s little information on the web as to when or why Qiana’s production was halted, but I did find some less than rose-colored memories of wearing or trying to sew this fabric. It seems it was slippery and not very breathable, but preferable to other polyester fabrics of the time. Instead of continuing to produce Qiana, Du Pont now uses the term as as part of their technical vernacular.
As an aside, it’s also interesting to note that prior to the 1980s, clothing brand and department stores listed the fabrication and the price of the clothing in their ads. Were consumers at that time more knowledgeable about or concerned with quality? During the economic boom of the 80s, much of the copy for fashion ads began to disappear, and they became more image-heavy and aspirational. By removing the price and fabric information, the new ads took on a mysterious and alluring quality that their predecessors lacked. Of course, I tend to think something was lost in the process.