The story of “Pashmina” or its westernized synonym, “Cashmere” begins in the wind-swept, arid and high altitude desert of Changthang in Ladakh, the northern-most territory of India.
The Changthama Goat
Nature endows its creations with an ability to survive in their own habitats. For the past 500 years there has been a small heard of highly pedigree breed of the Capra Hircus goat- the Changthama. These highly cared for goats, shed the finest and most pure cashmere fibers as a result of careful breeding. The hair has a diameter of under 14 microns and a length of 40mm. During the mid-late sixteenth century, the Moghuls colonizes much of South and Central Asia. When they had come across the Changthama, they were smitten by the softness and the fineness of this ultra-precious fibre.
Both the goats and the people are encapsulated in time which has remained practically unchanged in 400 years. It is on this roof-top of the world, the Changpa people cling to their ancient way of life, religion and beliefs eks out an existence that barely affords them sheer survival.
The Changra goats are generally not raised for their meat but for their fibre, called pashm. Pashmina wool is the softer hair located at the root of the longer hair. To survive the freezing temperatures at an altitude of 14,000 feet, the Changra goat grows a unique and unusually softer inner coat "pashm". It is six times finer than human hair and much finer than the cashmere you may be used to. Goats yielding the cashmere fibre are not unique to Changthand; they are also found in parts of Central Asia, Tibet, Mongolia, China, and Nepal. But it is the unique Changra goat reared by the Changpa's that yield the finest and longest cashmere fibre. By virtue of extremely selective breeding, high temperatures and the pedigree of the Changra has not been compromised.
The quality and feel of the Pashmina leaves you longing for more. Little wonder then that owning one is something that is treasured, and passed from one generation to another.
The Changpa Tribe
The story begins in 1664 and 15,000 feet above sea level in the desert of Ladakh with a tribe of Buddhist nomads on the Changthang plateau.
Changpa cashmere was first introduced to the Western World in 1664, when the first European, Francois Bernier visited Kashmir and expressed his fascination for this shawl. The Pashmina shawl created quite a stir among the affluent in Britain.
Though the plateau stretches across Ladakh in the West to Tibet in the East, 1,600km in all, just one-third of it lies in India. A cold desert where temperatures drop to -40 degrees. The plateau is remote, disconnected and inhospitable. Survival is highly challenging as it remains snow covered and inaccessible 9 months of the year. This harsh yet beautiful environment is home to a Buddhist tribe, the Changpa people.
It is believed they were the first to populate Ladakh, deriving their name from the territory. "Chang" meaning North and "thang" meaning plains. For centuries, life for these transhumant families has been centered around livestock; for the Changpa's, life is simple. They are a primitive nomadic tribe that has been herding and raring the precious Changra goats; they have mastered the art of living in a hostile environment.
The story of "pashmina", or its westernized synonym "cashmere" begins in the wind-swept, arid and high altitude desert of Changthang in Ladakh, the northern-most territory of India.It is the finest pashmina fibre that catalysed the genius of the Indian textile crafts which transformed this fiber into luxury art forms. Embroidered Pashmina and Jamavar shawls were the envy of the nobles and royals in Europe for over three centuries. Once, an essential element of eery wardrobe, and a precious textile art form from the province of Kashmir, India.
The weaving of this fibre originated in Kashmir, a fertile and picturesque valley nestled in between the Himalayan ranges. It is this fibre which is genuine Pashmina, or cashmere from the Kashmir territory.
The Pashmina has been cloned by enterprising, mass market companies from China, Europe, and Nepal who have flooded the market Capra Hircus goats often found in other regions and confused with Pashmina. A true pashmina wrap or scarf was that of an heirloom handed down from one generation to the next.
Pashmina is made from "pashm" the softer hair located at the root of longer hairs. It is this inner coat that is regarded in winter as the warmest natural fiber and used to make items like cashmere shawls, scarves, wraps, and sweaters.
Kasmir and Cashmere
Nature is especially lavish in its generosity to Kashmir. The most beautiful landscape on this planet, called "Jannat" paradise on earth with serene high altitude lakes, lush vegetation and rich fauna and flora. Kashmir is an ethnic and cultural melting pot creating the Kashmiris, an instinctive sense of aesthetics. Resulting from the vast amalgamation of the cultural influences of Greece, Persia, Turkey, and of course the Indian sub-continent.
The Kashmir tradition of weaving this fibre was initiated by Sultan Zayn-al-Abidin who summoned a highly skilled weaver named Naghz Geg from Turkestan. Four centuries later it is said that Kashmir weavers still lay flowers on the grave of this revered Master. The weaving industry in Kashmir employs over 50,000 people.
Kashmir shawls are woven on handlooms and then washed in the river waters of Jhelum which give it the ineffable softness. With the oriental influence prevalent in fashion and art during the late eighteenth century, the Pashmina shawl became an essential element in the wardrobe belonging to the highest social orders in Britain. Resources originally through the East India Company, the shawls hand-woven in Kashmir were sold at exorbitant prices.
India's royalty with its fabulous wealth and extravagant lifestyle patronized art and craft in every form , it begun with the rarest natural materials.
Single Origin Cashmere
Pashma is a fully vertical mill with zero waste, we use every fibre.