Authentic pashmina shawls are one of the most luxurious fashion accessories in the world. With their exceptional texture, softness, weight, and warmth, Pashmina shawls have been a favorite among fashion enthusiasts for centuries. In this blog post, we will explore the history, features, types, buying and caring tips, and popular uses of Pashmina shawls as well as my own experience in buying pashmina shawls and what you should be careful about!
What is a pashmina shawl?
The Pashmina shawl is an oversized scarf made from the fine, downy undercoat of the Capra Hircus goat. These shawls are renowned for their softness, warmth, and luxurious texture.
My Own Experience with Buying Pashmina Shawls
As a fashion designer and a digital nomad, I found myself in Kathmandu, Nepal, a few years ago, searching for a warm and gorgeous-to-touch fabric for my cardigan & shawl collection.
I visited the famous Thamel area in Kathmandu, where countless shops are selling “Pashmina” and “Kashmir” shawls (why are the double quotes you’re asking? Keep on reading 🙂).
As you pass by these shops, you notice the signs they proudly put outside: “100% pashmina!” “100% Kashmir!” etc.
As a fashion designer & shawlover, when I pass by a shop that sells fabrics, I can’t help but feel the textiles, even if for a moment.
So I did, and…These (so-called) Pashmina and Kashmir fabrics were unbelievably soft and amazing-to-touch, just as you would have expected from the name.
But to my surprise, even though it looked like all the shops were selling the same shawls, the prices were changing significantly from one shop to the other, and if I had been showing the sellers the slightest interest, the prices could go down by quite a bit…
After strolling the Thamel streets for too long, I found a shop with a nice collection of patterns and designs that I liked, and I got an excellent price for two very-over-sized 100% pure pashmina shawls.
Learn From My Mistakes
Since I had no experience with buying pashmina shawls, the low price didn’t seem dodgy to me, and I figured that since I am in Nepal, the labor must be pretty cheap here, so maybe that’s the reason for the low price, honestly, I didn’t give it too much thought.
Fortunately, what I did have experience with, was buying natural fabrics! And in the 21st century, especially in Asia, this is becoming a tougher and tougher job…
So just before paying, I asked the seller to burn a piece of the fabric’s fibers to test its purity; he grabbed a lighter, took some fibers out of the shawl, and burned them for me…Do you want to know what the 100% pure pashmina smelled like?
PURE PLASTIC 🤦😂 and it looked like burned plastic too!
At that point, the seller was quite embarrassed, and all he could say was, “it is 80% pashmina!” but in reality, it was 0%. It wasn’t even wool!
***If you’re not experienced in buying natural fabrics – if the fabric is truly natural and pure, when you burn the fibers, it should burn to ashes and smell like burned hair. If it turns into plastic and smells like plastic, there’s plastic \ nylon in the mixture.
You Won’t Believe How The Story Ends
The funny (and maybe surprising) ending to this story is that I did end up buying these shawls! They were so amazing-to-touch, and I got a great price for them! But even more than that, I learned a great lesson about buying pashmina and the fake-pashmina industry.
Important Warning About Pashmina Shawls
If you want to buy genuine pashmina, it has a cost! An authentic pashmina shawl is a luxurious garment that can never be purchased for cheap. It’s just not possible! (please read on to learn how pashmina shawls are made, and you’ll understand why cheap pashmina shawls are, in fact, polyester shawls!).
There are countless shawls online that are titled pashmina, where in fact, they should be called 100% pure polyester (or nylon).
Since it is easy to fake a pleasant fabric and design to look like the real thing, If you really wish to buy an authentic, high-quality, luxurious pashmina shawl, you should always buy from a trustworthy seller such as pashmina.com and similar reputable sellers.
A Brief History of Pashmina Shawls
It is believed that the history of Pashmina shawls dates back to the 3rd century BC when the art of Pashmina shawl-making began in the Kashmir region of India. These shawls were highly valued by royalty and were considered a status symbol (just as they are today!).
Over time, the art of Pashmina shawl-making was passed down through generations, and today, it is a highly respected craft. Pashmina shawls have become increasingly popular in the western world in recent years, with fashion enthusiasts seeking the luxurious comfort and timeless elegance of these beautiful, majestic garments.
What Pashmina Shawls Are Made of?
Pashmina shawls are made from the finest wool of the Capra Hircus goat, which is native to the Himalayan regions of India. The Capra Hircus goat is a hardy breed adapted to living in the extreme cold and high altitudes of the Himalayas. The goats produce a fine, downy undercoat of hair harvested by hand in the springtime when they shed their winter coat.
How Are Pashmina Shawls Made? And Why Are They so Expensive?
After harvesting the goat’s wool, it is sorted and cleaned by hand, with only the finest and softest fibers selected for production. The Pashmina fibers are then spun into yarn and woven into the desired shawl pattern.
Some Pashmina shawls are intricately embroidered by hand, which adds to their value and uniqueness.
The entire process can take weeks or even months, and sometimes years (!!!), depending on the shawl design’s complexity and the weaver’s skill. The result is a high-quality, lightweight, and luxurious shawl that is coveted around the world.
The production of Pashmina wool is labor-intensive, with each goat producing only about 80-170 grams of wool per year. It takes the wool from at least three goats to make one Pashmina shawl.
What’s so Special About Pashmina Shawls
Pashmina shawls are renowned for their softness, warmth, and unique texture. The wool used for the Pashmina shawls is one of the finest and softest fibers in the world, with a thickness of only 13-19 microns (you can pass a whole through a ring!!!).
This makes Pashmina shawls incredibly soft and comfortable to wear, with a texture that is unmatched by any other fabric.
Types of Pashmina Shawls
There are different types of Pashmina shawls, each with its unique style and design.
Here are a few popular types:
- Solid Pashmina shawls – the easiest to fit any style, men or women, in any culture.
- Jamawar Pashmina shawls – ornate and intricately woven, mainly with a floral design.
- Kani Pashmina shawls – handwoven on a wooden loom using the Kani technique.
- Printed Pashmina shawls – printed with different designs and patterns.
- Hand-Embroidered Pashmina shawls – with intricate and gorgeous embroidery.
How to Wash Pashmina Shawl
The best way to clean your pashmina is dry clean, but you can also carefully wash it yourself at home if you know how; Pashmina shawls should be gently hand-washed in cold-lukewarm water and dried flat to maintain their quality. Make sure not to soak them for too long and to use a gentle wool shampoo.
Popular Uses of Pashmina Shawls
Pashmina shawls have been a fashion statement for centuries, worn by royalty, celebrities, and fashion enthusiasts. In eastern culture, Pashmina shawls are popular as wedding accessories and are often worn by brides, grooms, and bridesmaids. In the west, they are more of a complimentary luxurious addition to complete your winter style. Pashmina shawls are perfect for cold weather and can be worn as a wrap, scarf, or shawl.
How to Identify Pure Pashmina Shawls
There are several ways to check if a fabric is natural; however, to check if a fabric is an authentic pashmina or not, is much more complicated.
Here are some false and true methods to check:
- One method is to read the label on the garment, which is required by law in many countries. The label will usually indicate the composition of the fabric and whether it is natural or synthetic. However, this won’t be a sufficient check in many cases with pashmina! It will say 100% pure pashmina, black on white, and it will be a lie.
- Another method that won’t help you, but you should know about, is to perform the pashmina ring test. The problem is that despite its popularity, it’s a FALSE METHOD. Read on here.
- A method that is not false, and that I mentioned briefly earlier, is to perform a burn test. It won’t tell you if it’s authentic pashmina or not, but if the fabric is not even natural (which is very likely), that will be quickly revealed. To do the burn test, you need to take out some fibers (if the specific fabric allows it) or cut a small piece of the fabric (which no one will ever let you do with a real pashmina shawl) and then burn it with a lighter.
Natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool, silk, and of course, Pashmina, will burn and smell differently from synthetic materials, such as polyester and nylon. Natural fibers will typically burn more slowly, with a light-colored flame and a smell similar to burning hair. On the other hand, synthetic fibers will burn more quickly and produce a darker smoke with a sweet or chemical smell. And instead of burning into ashes, non-natural fibers will look like burned plastic.
There are various other tests you can do, but to my understanding, none of them will surely tell you if your pashmina shawl is authentic or not; it may tell you if the shawl was hand-spun or not, hand-weaved or not, if it’s a natural fabric or not, but, again, to my understanding, it won’t tell you for sure if it’s real pashmina or not.
Your best option would be to consult a pashmina expert. And to begin with, if you want authentic pashmina, buy only from a trusted seller.
To Sum it All up
Pashmina shawls are not just an accessory but an art form that has been passed down through generations. The beauty and elegance of Pashmina shawls are unparalleled, making them a timeless addition to any wardrobe if you can afford them.
As we continue to appreciate the beauty of Pashmina shawls, let us also remember the hard work and dedication that goes into producing each one.
And remember, if you’re looking for a cheap pashmina shawl, you’re going to get an expensive polyester shawl! 😉