Cashmere is produced in a number of countries all over the world. Nestled in the Himalayas, is the luxury fibre producing goat, the Capra Hircus, which produces Cashmere. The goat can be found in a number of places in the Himalayas. As a result, a large number of countries found around these areas are producers of Cashmere. Shawls, scarves, wraps, apparel, accessories, furnishings, and blankets made of Cashmere can be seen in the markets of so many countries at the same time. But there is a place, where the best of the best is found. A small place, where the world’s finest Cashmere is being produced by the Capra Hircus goat.
Where does Cashmere come from?
Cashmere is a rare and precious fibre. The raw material itself is at times called as soft gold, or the diamond fibre. With these amazing qualities, one is really curious about the production of Cashmere around the world . for such individuals, we have researched about the places and along with the percentage of Cashmere they supply to the world
China, Mongolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Nepal and other smaller regions in Asia are the producers of Cashmere, China produces more than 70% of the total Cashmere produce, while Mongolia follows.
Where does pure Cashmere come from
At a place located over 15000 feet, where the temperature falls to minus 40 degrees Celsius, it is hard to believe that something survives. But this vast freezing desert, which lies between the Himalayas and the Karakoram ranges, houses the rarest and exclusive goat breed, the Changthangi goat. The goats are found in a number of colours. White, black, ash, grey, and brown are the colours that these goats mostly feature. This area is Ladakh, situated in North India, and the region is called Changthang.
High altitude, freezing temperature, cold, and unforgiving winds, and the harsh mountainous regions around help the goat grow a special kind of hair. It is a super soft undercoat that helps the goat survive one of the most severe living conditions. This hair is Cashmere. It is as fine as just 12 to 16 microns in thickness, making it one-fourth of a human hair (which is on an average 50 microns in thickness). This hair is also 8 times warmer than sheep wool. For these reasons, it is considered the most luxurious fibre, and products made from it are world-famous, cherished by the fashionistas and the affluent, and exceptionally elegant to drape.
The Herders of Changthangi Goats
In these inhospitable conditions, it is only the sturdiness and patience of the Buddhist nomadic tribes that stand by these goats. For centuries, these nomads have traveled pasture to pasture with their animals to find better conditions for them to graze and live. It is mainly yak, sheep, and goats that are domesticated by the people. The nomads and their animals together bear these rigid conditions and together give the world one of the most luxurious fibres in the world.
Cashmere is expensive, and we can't argue its legitimacy. As soon as the Spring season arrives, the goats’ moulting period starts and they start losing Cashmere naturally. Some portion left out on their bodies is gently combed off by the herders, thus harvesting the prized Cashmere. One goat produces just 150 grams of Cashmere wool. This is sorted, and bad is separated from good manually. Post sorting, cleaning is done, and this too with laborious, meticulous manual efforts. And after cleaning Cashmere fibre, it is sent for processing to Kashmir.
In Kashmir, Cashmere is again cleaned, and then hand spinning starts. It is a wooden spinning wheel that facilitates the spinning process. Spinning means transforming chunks of Cashmere wool procured from the goat, into long and fine fibre threads. These are sent for hand weaving, which is equally demanding and hard.
It takes months, and sometimes years to complete a Cashmere wrap or shawl. If the wrap needs to be embroidered all over the base, then the final product will be ready after 4 to 5 years. Solid pashmina scarves made from Cashmere are ready in weeks. Again depending upon the size, large shawls take more time than small scarves or mufflers.
Which country has the best Cashmere?
We are often asked, "Where is Cashmere from? China and Mongolia are the largest producers of Cashmere. Other than these, Cashmere comes from Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The best quality Cashmere comes from North India, Ladakh. Even though Ladakh contributes to less than 1% of the total production of Cashmere, this is the best quality Cashmere ever.
The same wool from other countries is not as fine and as warm as Ladakhi Cashmere. The reason is just the climatic conditions. Ladakhi goats suffer a lot before growing the world’s finest Cashmere on their bodies. If the same Ladakhi goat is transported to an area just a few miles down the plateau, it is believed that the goat produces thicker hair. The same goes for the goats found in other areas of the Himalayan range. Their hair is thicker and less warm, whereas the Changthangi goat of Ladakh has the best Cashmere. As such, Cashmere scarves and wraps from Kashmir, are the world’s highest quality products, with no comparison at all.
Also read: Woven Grace of Cashmere Wraps
Who discovered Cashmere in Ladakh?
It was a traveler and saint from Persia, who first visited Ladakh, and found this soft and warm hair growing on the local goat's body. He ordered its herders to get it processed and make a pair of socks from it. The socks were presented to the then ruler of the Kashmir valley, who was highly impressed by its warmth, softness, and luxurious touch. He ordered processing units to be set up for processing Cashmere. This was the beginning of the Cashmere trade between Ladakh and Kashmir valley.
The trade never remained local but spread all over the world. Raw Material from Ladakh reached Kashmir where it would be processed into shawls, scarves, and mufflers. These products would then be exported to Europe, India, and many smaller regions all over the world. Europeans were, especially, swooned by the beauty of the fabric. In fact, Empress Josephine, the then-style icon of France, wife of Emperor Napoleon, owned a few hundred Cashmere shawls during her lifetime.
Cashmere was, and still is, a royal fabric. In the past, royals would give Cashmere wraps as gifts to each other, and to the rulers of neighboring countries, which meant an agreement. Even now, either the most affluent, or the true patrons of art and culture own these wraps. As such, Cashmere too adapted to modern needs and came out of the embroidery bubble. Now Cashmere wraps from Ladakh, India, can be seen in animal prints, LGBTQ prints, stripes, and tartan checks, to suit the modern needs of women. Even men have started to understand the same and hence invest heavily in Men Ladakhi Shawls.
Types of Cashmere shawls found in Kashmir
Kashmir is the focal point as far as pure Cashmere is concerned. It is a hub for the best quality Cashmere shawls and scarves. The finest and the most warm Cashmere shawls are found in the bylanes of downtown Kashmir, where colours and shades of these Cashmere wraps steal hearts. There are a number of varieties that the makers of Cashmere shawls present to the customers. Here are some of the types of Cashmere shawls that one will find in Kashmir.
Hand embroidered shawls are the most common variety of shawls that one will find in Kashmir. These shawls were the first ones to be produced in the valley, especially during the reign of the Mughals. A number of embroidery types have been famous in Kashmir. Sozni embroidery, Tilla Dozi, Paper Mache embroidery are a few to name.
For those who want to try a new Cashmere shawl, solid shawls are perfect. These are the cheapest with no embellishment, and like embroidered shawls, these are the first ones to be ever produced. Solid shawls are versatile, as these can be worn with western apparel as well as local cultural dresses.
Printed or Patterned Shawls
Printed shawls are the ones which hosts modern as well as contemporary prints on its base. While as patterned shawls can be striped, checkered, tartan designed or more. These shawls are more recent when compared to embroidered or plain shawls and modern women love to wear these with western dresses and contemporary outfits.
Perhaps the most glamorous of all Cashmere shawls in Kashmir are the Kani shawls. The high desirability and high price of Kani shawls owes to the way they are prepared. Kani shawls are prepared by the highly skilled artisans of Kashmir, where they introduced colorful threads in between the warps of a shawl. This way, colorful motifs embellish the base of these shawls and make them one of a kind.
Ombre and Swarovski
Recent developments and desirability amongst young women led artisans to adapt to modern techniques, and introduce these even in the making of Pashmina. As such, some began to experimenting with colours (Ombre shawls) and some embellished the shawls with beautiful studs (Swarovski studded Shawls). These modern design shawls became overly famous and celebrities all over the world desired and owned the same. These shawls can be paired with western apparel, and one can look utterly charming wearing them.
Where does Cashmere clothing come from?
Be it online shopping websites or a retail store, Cashmere should be best purchased from Kashmir. This is because Kashmiri Cashmere shawls or scarves are the finest, most warm and the best quality. Here are some more reasons why Cashmere is the best when purchased from Kashmir
- Kashmiri Cashmere comes from Ladakh which is considered the best quality Cashmere. Fine wool from Ladakh grows on the Changthangi goat, which is known to grow the finest hair
- Kashmiri Cashmere is processed manually. There is no intervention of a machine whatsoever, when it comes to weaving a Kashmiri Cashmere. Traditional looms are used to weave Cashmere threads into fabric, and result is the finest shawls and scarves.
- When spun, Kashmiri Cashmere transform to threads which are as fine as 12 to 16 microns. That makes it one fourth of a human hair. Hence Cashmere from Kashmir is the finest and the most lightweight of all varieties found in the world.
- It is the utmost skillful hands and meticulous efforts of Kashmiri craftsmen and women besides their decades of experience that makes Kashmiri Cashmere special and unique.
- Cashmere from Kashmir was the one that was desirable by European and Indian rulers to the maximum limit. So much so, that they owned hundreds of pieces. Apart from wearing Cashmere, these noble men and women decorated their royal courts with Kashmiri Cashmere. This was their highest regard for the art form.
When asked "Where does Cashmere clothing come from"?, our fabric specialists always answer "Kashmir". This is because they never want anyone to miss out the opportunity to wear Kashmiri Cashmere at least once in their life. Raw Cashmere comes from Ladakh, but is painstakingly processed in Kashmir where generations of artisans are associated with this art form since decades.
We, at Pashmina.com, would love to introduce Kashmiri Cashmere to you in its best quality and appearance. Shawls, scarves and wraps from our assortments are luxurious and immensely beautiful. These have been handcrafted for days, months or even for years. Kani shawls and Embroidered Jamawar shawls from our collections are masterpieces, and some have taken 4 to 5 years to complete.
Cashmere from our luxury collections is sustainably handcrafted. There are no cases of animal cruelty whatsoever, as far as our Cashmere collection is concerned. Moreover, fair wages, timely wages and better than the best compensations are paid to the artisans who put their heart and soul into each piece they craft. Besides showing gratefulness to these artisans, we show them that their contributions to the art of Cashmere shawl making doesn't go waste and that their handcrafted shawls deserve an international recognition.