All you should know on how to buy genuine Pashmina Shawls, mainly because mostly in India everyone claims they have a “100% Pashmina” and Cashmere shawls.
Pashmina Shawls (also called Cashmere shawls even in India) are one of the items that is on the shopping list of most foreign tourist visiting India.
If you want to be sure of the 100% Cashmere quality you should buy fabrics originating from UK, where the cashmere quality control is very good and strict but if the cashmere (Pashmina) comes from Asia, it could many times be a fraud.
In India declaring a garment as being 100% Pashmina is pretty much the same as saying “100% fabric”.
A Pashmina shawl is a special kind of wool which comes from the outer skin of the goats living in the Himalayas.
Indian textiles began flooding European markets in the seventeenth century with the founding of the Dutch East India Company in 1597 and the English East India Company in 1600. Kashmir shawls became fashionable among European women in the late eighteenth and they still are.
According to encyclopedia.com, Kashmir shawls were made of fine cashmere, pashima, and shah tus wools, made from the soft hair of Tibetan mountain goats living in the high altitudes of the Himalayan Mountains. Indian women spun the fleece into yarn and one or two men worked between two to three years weaving the yarn into a shawl. Undyed shawls ranged in color from light cream to grey or brown.
Note, shah tus (also written Shahtoosh or shahtush) is the name given to a specific kind of shawl, which is woven with the down hair of the Tibetan antelope (chiru), by master craftsmen and women of Kashmir, Northern India. Shahtoosh shawls are banned but still many shop owners in India claim that they have one hidden just for you that costs $3000.
Tips and tricks on how to buy genuine Pashmina Shawls
When in India, start by choosing a reputable shop like the art shop at The National Museum in New Delhi. The prices are fixed by the government and you don’t have to bargain.
If you visit Srinagar, Kashmir go to JK Govt Emporium opposite Dal Lake.
The classic trick, is to burn a tiny part at the end of the shawl and smell it. It should smell like burnt hair because if its natural fabric, it will not smell like nylon. Keep in mind, all this will prove is that it is not made from a synthetic fibre, could be wool.
To recognize a real pashmina scarf from a fake you can do the ring test. Pass the shawl through a tiny little ring.
Another sign of a hand woven pashmina is the embroidered signature.
Another way is to educate yourself by feeling different pashmina shawls. Ask for the most expensive ones and then feel the difference.
If you come across, this LA based brand, called The Elder Statesman, feel the softness, these cashmere shawl that have the size of a travel blankets are high end.
I love the hand embroidered shawls and despite the relative high price I think they are really special.
Images- Nina P
Have a lovely Day!!!