Royal Admirers of Cashmere Pashmina
The blissful richness and elusive smoothness of pashmina with rich hand embroideries or intricate hand weaves have been an essential part of the Imperial lifestyle since many centuries. Justly referred to as the “Art of Royal”, Pashmina became a desire of Empress Josephine - the wife of Napoleon which made it a must have luxury by all the royal families of the world. Pashmina is the delicate art of hand-weaving premium cashmere wool into deluxe pashmina shawls, scarves and accessories.
Pashmina is considered the finest craftsmanship in the world which transforms the exceptionally warm and delicate Cashmere threads to opulent accessories. The fleece of Changthangi Goat is known as Pashm which is an Urdu word & has origins in Farsi. This goat is exotic and is only found there, 15000 feet above sea level in Ladakh - Jammu and Kashmir, making the art of Pashmina even rarer and revered all over the world. Pashmina has fascinated kings, royals, and people all over the world by its magical allure and a traditional grace. Perhaps this was the reason why we chose to showcase the exquisiteness and regal demeanor of this centuries old art to the world. It's not just today that Pashmina has patronage from around the world. There were times when this art was favoured with royal patronage. Kings, queens, royal families and nobles all over the world knew Pashmina. In fact, they owned a large number of shawls and scarves.
It was in the 16th century when the birthplace of Pashmina - Kashmir - was under Mughal rule, that Pashmina was discovered. And the then Mughal kings were swooned by the mere looks of it. Later the aesthetics of this art spread more and French monarch Napoleon Bonaparte gifted his wife, Josephine, a Pashmina shawl. She is believed to have owned a few hundred shawls in that time. In Iran, rulers wore as well as gifted Pashminas within their political practices. Here in India Maharaja Ranjit decorated his court with hand embroidered Pashmina shawls and Fabric. The present scenario isn't too favourable for Kashmiri Pashmina. Yet Cashmere is even now considered the king of all fabrics which makes it timeless and a heritage.
The vivid beauty and the attractive glamour on a luxurious Pashmina shawl has a very humble beginning. Changthang is the land of the nomads, located east of Leh, about 14600 m above sea level. The area is untouched, unusual and rare. It seems as if the noise and grit of the city fades till it reaches Changthang top. Perhaps what makes it so is extreme climate, high altitude and remoteness. And since these properties made Changthang unsuitable for agriculture, the local nomads started rearing goats - the Changthangi goats. For the goats, these conditions are perfect. It is these goats which grow Cashmere - the same Cashmere which is processed in Kashmir to conceive Pashmina shawls. Let’s take you deep into the journey of this unbelievable craft, right from Ladakh where from it is conjured, through narrow alleys of Kashmir, to luxury stores all across the world. Pashmina weaving has always been a very laborious work. From the combing out of the fleece from the changthangi goats to separating individual fibres; then hand spinning it from fibre to yarn; then the entire weaving process & dyeing; & finally the intricate embroidery.
The number of man hours put in through all these stages is astonishing! The combing out of the fleece of the entire changthangi goat livestock takes place over a few months. This fleece is a mixture of fine fibre, dirt, coarse hair from the outer regions of the goat, mixed with other organic material from the goat such as sweat & dandruff. The next stage is the most tedious one, involving the separation of the fine fleece from the coarse outer hair. This hand dehairing of the pashm fibre is a lengthy process, with 50 gms of pashm taking up to 8 hours for separation. The pashm wool’s natural oil & other impurities are then removed. This freshly cleaned pashm wool is then straightened by passing it through an upright comb.
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