When we are selling our range of scarves we notice that often customers refer to them as pashminas. Over the last few years it seems that ‘pashmina’ has become an accepted term for scarf or shawl a bit like ‘google’ has become a generic term for searching the internet. In fact like wool, silk, linen, viscose and so on pashmina refers to the material used to weave the scarf.
Handmade shawls and scarves woven from pashmina have a long tradition. Pashmina shawls woven in Kashmir are referred to in Afghan texts from as early as the 3rd century BC while the 15th century ruler of Kashmir, Zayn-ul-Abidin, introduced weavers from central Asia and began the cashmere industry. The fibre known as pashm or pashmina comes from the pashmina goat (or ibex) which lives in the harsh, cold climate of the high Himalayas. To survive the freezing environment at 14,000 feet altitude, the goat grows a unique, incredibly soft and light pashm as an inner coat. The goat sheds its winter coat every spring and the fibres are collected by a tribe known as the Changpa. The fibres are so fine that they can only be spun by hand. The pashmina wool is categorised into two natural colours, from the neck and the body, the neck wool is lighter than the body. The pashmina is sorted into colours and spun into yarn by the Kashmiri women on hand spinners (chakra) and then woven on a hand loom into shawls and scarves. Traditionally they are then hand embroidered. Authentic pashmina shawls are expensive due to the fine quality of the wool and craftsmanship involved in their production.
So instead of using the word ‘pashmina’ liberally to describe a scarf check that you really are buying a pashmina. The Kashmiri Government is creating a labelling system which guarantees genuineness and purity of their pashmina products.