There's something eternally special about heirloom pieces. For some it is the timelessness of the weave, for some the depth of its colour which grows deeper with years, while for some it is the memories attached with the slightest whiff that takes you back into a time you've probably never lived. Pashmina shawls have a similar effect on those who get it or inherit it. These shawls weren't just symbols of ostentation but also a symbol of pride that one inherited. Someone once said that it is simple to spot a Pashmina shawl, you'll know it because you won't be able to take your eyes off of it. The simplicity of the weave is in fact as complex in theory. The fine wool creates one of the most delicate and lightweight shawls that when wrapped around can warm you up during the harshest of winters like a tight warm hug.
The intricate shawls are painstaking created over a span of days or even months depending on the embroidery. Kashmir is home to these beautiful shawls where families pass down to traditions of creating this artistic floral embroidery on these shawls. Heirloom in its culture and being, the creation of Pashmina shawls is one of a kind. To understand the art of creating these heritage pieces, we got talking to the founders of Dusala Kashmir, Sugandha and Shiva Kedia, who have reinvented the way Pashmina shawls are perceived today.
1. What is the technique used to make Pashmina shawls?
Shiva & Sugandha Kedia: The process of making a shawl starts from combing out the fleece gently to reveal fine wool strands which is carefully handspun to create the yarns. The yarns are then woven into a basic pashmina cloth after which the dyeing process begins to match the desired shade. Once the shawl is dried, the hand embroidery process begins. The intricate flora and fauna designs made by traditional karigars are masters of their art and depending on the intricacy of the work, a shawl can take up to anywhere between a few days to a month.
2. How relevant is a Pashmina shawl in today's time?
Shiva & Sugandha Kedia: Pashmina shawls are timeless pieces and its relevance only grows overtime. Families revere these beautiful shawls with gold and wealth and on auspicious occasions and festivals, offer these these shawls to Gods and Goddesses. Many pass down Pashmina shawls as part of their heritage to the next generation even today. In fact Pashmina shawls are one of the most popular trousseau pieces that many families not just pass down to their daughters and daughters-in-law but also invest in during the wedding season. With global awareness too, places like Europe, USA and China have become important international hubs where Pashmina has garnered much fame.
3. Pashmina shawls have always been brilliant heirloom pieces. How does one style them with today's contemporary style in mind?
Shiva & Sugandha Kedia: Pashmina is as classic as it is contemporary. Gone are the days when were only styled by our grandmothers with their gorgeous silk sarees. Today the younger generation is open to experimentation with styles. One can easily wear them as a shrug or a cape with a belt cinched at the waist or accessorise it with stylish pins and brooches.
4. How does one take care of these expensive pieces of clothing?
Shiva & Sugandha Kedia: These pashmina shawls are heritage pieces which are very delicately made and its care should be done as carefully. Just as the older generations wrapped them in soft mulmul cloth to store them, is still one of the best ways to safely keep them. Avoid machine washing it or washing it in hot water. Dry cleaning them once in a while and carefully steam ironing them before you store them is best suggested.
5. What are certain embroidery styles one can look out for when buying a shawl that will have a longer shelf life and go well with most looks?
Shiva & Sugandha Kedia: There are various kinds of Kashmiri Pashmina shawls but there are two popular styles that look evergreen with every outfit. The first is Kani shawls who's weaving technique dates back a few centuries which was introduced by Persian weavers who travelled to Kashmir. The intricately designed paisley motifs are highly meticulous and can take up to a few years to create it. The second is the Sozni shawl which is indigenous to Jammu & Kashmir and is truly a sight to behold. This ornamented shawl is a piece of art where artisans use thin needle staples and thin silk threads to create elaborate floral paisley designs on the Pashmina shawl. The beautiful floral design stands out and is truly statement worthy.
6. How to spot an ordinary cashmere shawl from a Pashmina shawl?
Shiva & Sugandha Kedia: Pashmina is a refined form of cashmere. While they're both warm and soft, it is harder to obtain the Pashmina wool which is what makes it more valuable. A lay person at first glance may not be able to spot a Pashmina shawl from an ordinary cashmere shawl. Pashmina wool is finer and warmer on closer look and if you hold it close to you, you'll surely hear tales and folklore that speak of its magnificence; that's when you know this isn't just any shawl but a Kashmiri Pashmina.
The experience of owning a Pashmina shawl is like coming back home to your favourite treasure that's precious because of the stories woven on it.