Pashmina is a soft and fine wool derived from the undercoat of the Changthangi goat, which is found in the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas. This luxurious fibre is known for its exceptional softness, warmth, and lightweight texture and is highly prized.
Discovering Pashmina: The magical fabric
The word “Pashmina” is derived from the Persian word “Pashm,” which refers to the finest grade of wool.
Pashmina (or cashmere) is the name given to the fine woolly undercoat produced by the Changra goats. It is one of the best fibres in the world and the original historical raw material for the famous shawl industry of Kashmir. It was called “Cashmere” because of its ancestral connection to the ancient craftsmen of Kashmir.
Pashmina is well-known and highly coveted in the world of woollen fabrics. The pashmina is undoubtedly the warmest and most exquisite woollen fabric, and it has always been appreciated. A pashmina garment is the epitome of wool clothing due to its beauty and exclusivity. Many people are familiar with pashmina, but its origins, crafting techniques, and unique qualities still remain a mystery.
History of Pashmina
Even though Pashmina shawls had been woven in Kashmir for centuries, Kashmiri Emperor Zain-ul-Abidin founded the weaving industry in the region during the 15th century. During this time, Pashmina fabrics for shawls gained popularity. The emperor encouraged weavers to experiment with new techniques, leading to the growth of the industry.
During the 16th century, the Mughal Empire flourished in India. During the Mughal era, pashmina shawls became the accessory of choice for the elite.
The Pashmina shawl industry in Kashmir benefited greatly from the patronage of kings during this time and reached new artistic heights.
By the 18th century, Pashmina shawls had taken over the European markets and the French fashion industry.
Pashmina Today: The Continuing Popularity of Pashmina
In recent years, the global demand for Pashmina has only continued to rise, with the material becoming increasingly popular among fashion-conscious consumers worldwide.
The pashmina industry significantly contributes to the economy of the Himalayan regions, where people source the raw material and traditionally weave the fabric. Kashmiri artisans have passed down the craft of pashmina weaving through generations, making it an integral part of the culture and heritage of the region.
These regions produce high-quality Pashmina shawls, scarves, and other garments with exceptional craftsmanship and quality, which discerning consumers highly value in global markets and are willing to pay a premium price for. As a result, the pashmina industry has become an important export sector for countries like India and Nepal, playing a crucial role in the economic development of these regions.
Pashmina in Fashion: From Traditional to Trendy
Pashmina has established a prominent position in the fashion industry, with its unique blend of luxury and practicality. The delicate texture and softness of Pashmina make it a highly desirable fabric for scarves, shawls, and other accessories, while its warmth and durability make it a popular choice for winter wear.
The versatility of Pashmina has made it a favourite among fashion designers, who have incorporated it into their collections in a range of innovative ways. From classic shawls and scarves to contemporary wraps and ponchos, Pashmina continues to captivate fashion enthusiasts and remain a highly desirable textile in the industry.
Ladakh’s Changthangi Goats: The Secret to Pashmina’s Softness
Changpa, a nomadic tribe of Ladakh, inhabits the Changtang Plateau, one of the highest plateaus in the world, and its surrounding slopes in India and Nepal.
The Changpas raise high-bred and fine Changra goats, also known as Changthangi goats, which produce the rare Pashmina (cashmere) fibre.
Changthang is as beautiful as it is difficult to live in.The region experiences a harsh winter, with temperatures dropping below minus 30 degrees.
To survive in such freezing weather, the Changra goat grows a fine, delicate, and exceptionally warm fleece as an undercoat. This rather lengthy coat of silky and lustrous hair provides it with such warmth that it easily survives in these extremely low climatic temperatures.
The Pashmina Journey: A Step-by-Step Process
In late spring, the same thick quilt that kept the goats warm and cosy during the snowy winters begins to become uncomfortably warm, and they begin to shed their coats. They do this from time to time by repeatedly rubbing themselves against rough surfaces like stones, walls, shrubs, and soil, naturally losing some of this fine wool. As herders observe the goat in discomfort, they immediately start combing their goats carefully. They use a set of special combs for this process.
The raw wool from the Changra goats is separated from the superfluous material.
Workers then separate the underlying fine wool from the outer fur, which is called the guard hair.
Procurement and sorting of wool
The snow melts and carries the fleece down to Leh where it is sold as raw pashm fiber in the Leh marketplace. The Kashmiri weavers buy the raw pashm fiber and clean, sieve, and separate it first by fineness and then by color, which can range from white to light grey, cream, or brown.
The spinning of the wool to make yarn is done by dedicated artisans and their families. The yarn is manually spun on a spinning machine known locally as a “Charkha.” Hand spinning is an extremely laborious and time-consuming task. It requires extreme patience and dedication. Years of experience have helped women in the family perfect their pashmina wool spinning skills. They clean and spin the extremely fine and delicate pashm into yarn with great care. The end product is a yarn that is so delicate and valuable that it is only 14 microns thick.
Pashmina yarn is too delicate to withstand the vibrations produced by power looms. Over a wooden handloom, the weavers create the classic 100% Pashmina shawls. For the best fabric, the weaver must have a consistent hand. A shuttle is used for weaving. Weaving is an art form in and of itself, passed down through generations.
The entire process takes a few weeks, from the receipt of raw wool to weaving, and the results are truly breathtaking.
The pashmina is blended with silk to produce fashionable products. The end result has the lustre and feel of silk with the softness of pashmina. It’s also extremely thin, making it a great choice for sweaters and shawls.
Preserving the true heritage of the ancient and classical art forms of genuine Pashmina
Experts consider only Cashmere made from the highest quality wool that comes from Changthangi goats a true Pashmina, even though Pashminas have been around for centuries.
Sheep’s wool from Mongolia, Nepal, and China is used to make cashmere. Sometimes mixed with other yarn types or even synthetic yarn. So that machines can spin and weave it. Though the process is quicker and allows the production of a large number of garments in a short amount of time. It is the exact opposite of what Pashmina is.
However, the breakneck pace of the fast-fashion trade has gradually eroded the idea of the “true Pashmina” and more than five centuries of rich, Kashmiri ancestral culture, all to meet the expanding global demand for pashmina and maximise profits.
Tips for Identifying the Real Pashmina
- The first thing to look for is the quality of the fabric. A real pashmina product must be made of 100% pashmina wool.
- Genuine pashmina is softer, finer, lighter, and more luxurious than other types of wool.
- Pashmina is the warmest material in the world, eight times as warm as wool.
- Genuine pashmina comes with a label and quality assurance certificate.
- If the fabric turns out to be transparent when held up to the light, it’s not real.
- Since it is completely handmade, the texture of a real pashmina will be uneven.
- The original pashmina does not generate static electricity.
Test for Identifying the Real Pashmina
There are several tests that can help identify real pashmina. The burn test is a common test where we burns a small piece of fabric to check if it smells like burnt hair. Because we make authentic pashmina from the undercoat of the Changthangi goat, and we use this characteristic to identify it.
If the fabric smells like burnt plastic or has a chemical odor, it is not likely to be a real pashmina. However, you should exercise caution when conducting the burn test. Burning any fabric can be dangerous and you should do it in a well-ventilated area with appropriate safety measures in place.
Conclusion: A Royal Fibre in High Demand
Pashmina earns its reputation as the ‘diamond fiber’ and ‘soft gold’ of Asia because it is the finest, softest, warmest, and most luxurious fiber on earth. These phrases allude to the lavish elegance and richness inherent in the products manufactured from this magnificent material. Pashmina’s exquisite wool crafts are truly sumptuous.
The pinnacle of elegance and warmth Pashmina offers a pure, natural, and pleasant touch. Pashmina yarn has a wide range of uses. Includes the production of shawls, stoles, scarves, baby blankets, sweaters, stockings, gloves, cardigans, caps, and even coats. People all over the world highly demand pashmina clothing due to their softness, comfort, lightness, and purity.
Consumers looking for authentic pashmina should be cautious about who and where to buy it. Make sure the brand you support has a reputation for quality and reliability.