©P1070907|Laurent Girousse

Weaving history

Textiles in the Cathar Pyrenees

As you pass through the Cathar Pyrenees, you’ll notice large buildings with saw-toothed roofs in Lavelanet, Montferrier and Laroque d’Olmes, sometimes punctuated by tall chimneys. These are textile factories, each employing hundreds of people, heirs to the ancestral know-how of wool processing that made the Pays d’Olmes France’s leading center for carded wool.


in needle

At the end of the Middle Ages, industrial textile activity spread throughout France. In Ariège, the towns of Foix and Laroque d’Olmes were the main producers of woollen cloth. The Pays d’Olmes then went into a period of slumber, with the Aude region developing this sector.

In the early 19th century, the beginnings of mechanization changed the situation and enabled textile manufacturers to set up in Laroque d’Olmes and Lavelanet. At this time, the textile industry was developing in Pays d’Olmes, but still remained in the shadow of the major centers of northern France.

At the beginning of the 20th century, local entrepreneurs specialized in the production of carded wool fabrics (untangled wool stripped of its impurities). This whole sector developed around Lavelanet, with wool spinning, fraying, weaving and finishing industries.

The presence of watercourses facilitated the installation of factories, and establishments flourished mainly along the Touyre from Montferrier to Laroque d’Olmes. Water was essential to the industry, providing the motive power for the machines and enabling wool washing, dyeing and some of the finishing processes.


haute couture

After the end of the Second World War, as the textile industry collapsed in northern France, it revitalized around Lavelanet. This success was based on the association of large companies with a multitude of small craftsmen working in the towns and villages of the Pays d’Olmes. The region thus became France’s leading center for carded wool.

The industry modernized in step with technical and fashion developments. It produced fabrics for the ready-to-wear, automotive and furniture industries, constantly diversifying its outlets and using synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester. The excellent quality of our production was also highly appreciated by haute couture houses, who purchased our made-to-measure fabrics!

But the 1973 oil crisis, followed by fierce global competition, triggered the decline of this activity. The country was hit by a social and identity crisis.

Today, textile mills are still in operation, producing fabrics unanimously recognized for their quality. The country has healed its wounds, developed other skills and diversified its activities, but remains proud to share this rich page of its history.