There is something really special and extraordinary about vintage heirloom pieces. For a certain person it might be the timelessness of it, for others, it might be the use and sorting of colours over them, and for others, it might be a Madeleine de Proust which takes them back to a memorable time. Pashmina shawls arouse feelings of that sort.
For those who have inherited these shawls from their elders often define the feelings attached to them as distinctive and incomprehensible. This is because, for once these shawls were not just symbols of luxury, but a badge of pride for the owner. Some believe that it is easy to recognize Pashmina shawls among others because these alluring pieces won't let you take your eyes off them. The complex weave patterns, embroidery motifs, lavish feel and extravagant looks of Pashmina shawls bind you with themselves and wrap you in the most comfortable and sumptuous embrace that is unparalleled.
For the harsh winters that are coming your way, we highly recommend investing in Pashmina shawls. These immensely intricate handmade shawls are crafted in a few months or even years if the pattern asks. And this has been the case since their inception in the 5th century in Kashmir. When the Mughals ruled India, it was only then that Pashmina was discovered. The credit goes to a Sufi saint from Persia who discovered the Pashmina Goat in Ladakh and together with the then king, set up processing units of this rare wool kind. And since then, Pashmina shawls have never stopped being the best of their kind.
From minimal solid shawls to lush embroidery pieces, Pashmina shawls were loved and cherished by women all over the world. But is the scenario different now? Do we still cherish and honour Pashmina shawls as our ancestors did? Is Pashmina even relevant in today's world, when all runways and streets are filled with fast fashion clothing and accessories?
How are Pashmina Shawls made?
To understand the relevance of Pashmina shawls, we should know their making, so that we get a fair idea of their applicability in our lives. The process of Pashmina shawl making starts in Ladakh, where herders comb out the fine fleece growing on the bodies of Pashmina goats. This happens in the moulting seasons when the goat has already lost most of this fine hair. The hair is sent to Kashmir for further processing.
In Kashmir, wool strands are converted to the yarn during the spinning process, where underprivileged women spin a wheel to produce yarn of diameter 12 to 16 microns. This yarn goes to the handlooms operated by men. Men weave the yarn for a few days to produce fabric (Pashmina shawl). The fabric is cleaned, washed and sent for embroidery (if required). Embroidery artisans further embellish this shawl. Embroidery can take even 3 to 4 years to complete depending upon the intricacy.
Is such a time consuming shawl relevant in today’s time?
We believe that Pashmina shawls are simply timeless accessories, and their relevance not just remains but grows. Even today people love to wear these shawls to festivals, weddings, formal occasions, special events and more. These are the perfect gifts for the lovers of extravagance, as these precious pieces serve their purpose right. Women still pass Pashmina shawls down to their future generations, and those vintage shawls are one of the most significant assets of a woman’s trousseau. While fast fashion has taken its toll over the fashion world, the buzzword still is sustainability. And fortunately, Pashmina shawls are sustainably made, all credit to its artisans who do not use any machines to craft them. Free of animal cruelty, free of pollution causing machines, and a source of income for the most impoverished and needy, this treasure worthy shawl is a responsible buy and a part of ethical shopping.
How would one style traditional shawls with modish clothing?
Whether one believes it or not, the traditional Pashmina shawl looks immensely graceful with modern clothing like jeans and a T-shirt, skirts, dresses and more. We can say that the shawls are as classic as they are contemporary. Yet gone are the days when our parents or grandparents styled these with traditional sarees or salwar suits. One can today easily pair Pashmina shawls with modern apparel in a number of ways. Women have creatively learnt to wear the shawls as shrugs or capes by clinching them at the waist and accessorising with belts or brooches. By doing so, these shawls are becoming even more timeless, as their usage increases day by day. This is contrary to the belief that Pashmina shawls are irrelevant today.
Does such a vintage accessory as a Pashmina shawl need special care?
Of course. The shawls are delicate and expensive accessories that need to be taken care of in a special way. Be it their use, wash, drying, ironing and even storage, everything has to be careful and attentive. Thankfully older generations have taught us how to care about Pashmina shawls. Washing a Pashmina shawl has to be manual. One has to hand wash these shawls in the most careful and delicate fashion. There should be no wringing, twisting or rubbing. Drying the shawls too is to be done manually, i.e., air drying. Pashmina shawls were always stored in muslin cloth by our older generations, and that is the best way to store these. When it comes to ironing, the shawls need steam ironing before storing them for the next season.
Also read: How to wash Cashmere at home?
How have Pashmina shawls evolved for the new generations?
When Pashmina shawls began selling for the first time, there were just a few patterns to offer. Most shawls were either embroidered or woven in the Kani style. Many were solids and some were reversible. But now we see a plethora of modish patterns that the shawls have adapted to. Modern motifs like abstract art, geometric patterns or theme-based motifs have been introduced into the art. Other than embroidery, animal and floral prints, check and striped patterns, Ombre dyed shades, Swarovski studs, and modern design laces are featured in Pashmina shawls. As a result, even teen girls today opt for a modishly designed Pashmina shawl when given a choice.
Pashmina shawls have been and will always be timeless. Be it any age, gender, occasion and mood, now we have Pashmina shawls for all.