This is not pashmina

Let's yell it on top of the world; this is not pashmina!

How to educate millions of people on the true pashmina? Everywhere I go it seems to be a loosing battle. It is now ingrained into the masses mind that pashmina is a large scarf with oriental designs.

This is a follow-up post form my first one, 10 months ago when I realized how the word Pashmina is misused by the scarf industry. Since then I went on a personal quest for the real pashmina, which I found in Kashmir. Yet, the word pashmina is now famous around the world as... large Indian style cheap scarves. 

But it says pashmina on the packaging!

Pashmina hardly means luxurious anymore for most buyers. They don't even describe the material, it is just a marketing word inspired by the unknown glory of its true meaning. Pashmina is used on signs outside shops, on labels, even on plastic packaging. Just by looking at those, we recognize viscose scarves. 

 

pashminapackages

 

To add to the confusion we can see, hung side by side, scarves that mention 100% pashmina (all viscose) with similar priced scarves with 100% cashmere (viscose or acrylic mix). There are few people who are familiar with the original meaning. But surely the label must be right! Wrong...

 

Not pashmina either

  

Shanghai, the breeding nest for millions of pashminas

China textile industry is responsible for giving pashmina it's new meaning. In the business context, this is understandable as pashmina had long lost its original meaning anyway, and the term was probably adopted from how the Indians were using it to name their merino wool shawls. The problem is when they play with the confusion between the generic pashmina (large scarf) and its original meaning, precious cashmere. So they lable scarves as 100% pashmina (in this context meaning 100% scarf) alongside other as 100% cashmere. They sell them for a few dollars in China, and between 15 and 25 in the West.

Made in China pashminas

 

Shanghai is known as the industrial scarf capital of the world. Large factory towns like Yiwu yield millions of scarves a year that are shipped all around the world. This is where the famous cheap pashmina comes from, but also beaded scarves, furry scarves, infinity scarves, chiffon, satin, all selling in the streets for a dollar or two. 

Storefront of Shanghai Stories, a fancy scarf store

But there are some hidden treasures. Shanghai is also famous for its silk scarves, woven in the typical thick satin style china is famous for, exhibiting brightly painted colors. These are the true authentic handmade Chinese scarves, selling for hundreds of dollars. Everything else is satin and imitations.

 

India, the master shawls

To those travelers roaming the markets and asking about the real pashmina to shop keepers, pashmina would mean some kind of special material, perhaps a cashmere mix. India took over the word pashmina from Kashmir a long time ago, before China started over using it. 

 

scarf store in amritsar

 

After all, the state Kashmir is part of the country, and Indians are passionate about their scarves. Below are common viscose scarves sold as pashminas in India and elsewhere.

 

Viscose scarves made in India

 

But the wary buyer who dismisses the cheap scarves hanging outside the shop, will enter the store and ask for "real" pashmina. The shop keeper will smile and pull out scarves from a behind a glass door or a suitcase, so they look very precious. The buyer touches them, and finds them so fine and soft. They are very likely similar to the those in the photos below, made of processed extra fine merino wool. Not cashmere, certainly not pashmina. 

Merino wool scarves from India

 

And then there is Chiangra Pashmina in Nepal

To clean the mess over the misuse of Pashmina, the government in Nepal decided to give it it's former glory by offering certification for "Chyangra pashmina" which guarantees that the material actually contains 51% Mongolian cashmere. This is in response to the overflow of low quality acrylic imitations in Nepal, which is great to help the local industry. But it doesn't promote at all the original meaning of the word as it is was meant to be, the Kashmir pashmina. Read more about Pashmina in Nepal in this post. 

 pashmina store in nepal

 

Pashmina from Kashmir is Pashmina, the One

I am back to Dharamshala, where I got my first contact with real pashmina. Here is a photo below. How to convey it's softness on a photo? A brand new pashmina can even be a little bit rougher than an imitation. Look for those irregularities. All is handmade, even the single thread that will look quite lumpy.

the real pashmina

 

Even in person, how to find the real honest seller while everybody claims to sell the real one. Well go by these guidelines:

- there are no different qualities. The cashmere is all gathered and bundled up in the mountains. Nothing such as beard hair, back hair, etc. 

- pashmina, the real one, is never mixed with anything. Not with silk nor wool.

Mongolian cashmere, yes. So if the seller uses these two lines, go to the next shop! And if you see a label, any label, run away. This one below was created in response to the increasing reputation of excellence the Kashmiri have in the textile industry. This is a machine made synthetic shawl made in Punjab, and it is 100% Kashmiri! 

100 % pure kashmir

 

Remember, pure handmade pashmina shawls don't have labels.

This is based on the fact that Kashmir has a thriving new small scale textile industry making affordable extra fine merino wool scarves. They are wonderful and soft, but never labeled. Shopkeepers might say they are made of "cashmere" since the name is derived from their own and they believe it can be used for any high-quality wool fabric they make. It is confusing for the average customer. But they would never dare call those pashminas. True, authentic Pashmina comes from Kashmir, they are only handmade from start to finish and nothing is added to the yarn. Read more about it in this article. 

Well, for the sake of pashmina, lets all give pashmina it's true meaning back. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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