As promised in our last post, today we will share some insights on protein based natural fibres and how you can introduce such fabrics to your wardrobe.
Natural protein fibers are formed by chains of amino acids. The key natural proteins that go into making these are 1) Keratin found in animal hair and results in products like pashmina/cashmere, alpaca, merino wool 2) Fibroin and Sericin which are found in silk.
In this blog, we will explore the popular Pashmina fabric which is Keratin protein based.
Pashmina (also famously known as Cashmere wool) comes from Changthang plateau in Ladakh region in India and also some high altitude areas in Tibet and Nepal. Changthang plateau is home to a special breed of goats called "changthangi" goats or "Capra Hircus" . These special goats naturally shed their undercoat in Spring, which is then hand combed by skilled herders and then hand spun , hand woven and tastefully finished to get this natural masterpiece. It can easily take a minimum of 20 days manual, end to end effort to create a simple pashmina shawl.
Pashmina originates from the word "pashm" which means soft gold and refers to Changthangi goat's soft fleece. Fleece from this goat's underbelly is relatively thin and short and used in making fine, soft pashminas. Since the fibre is very short and fine (typically 12-16 microns) hence pure pashmina can only be handspun. This handspun yarn is then handwoven to fine Pashmina by traditional Kashmiri weavers and is later adorned with dyes, needlework and embroidery. This also suggests why pure pashmina is difficult to produce on a large scale.
For the hard work, craftsmanship and premium material that go into making a pashmina, each product is a true masterpiece. If well cared, it can be passed on to next generations and hence also serves as an heirloom gift.
Coming to introduction of pashmina to your Classic Wardrobe Staples , our suggestion is a must have plain white/cream pashmina stole or shawl. These would work as simple yet luxurious accessories for work as well as parties or weddings. If you like colours and appreciate embroidery then go for bright coloured shawls or stoles with typical Kashmiri sozni embroidery. There are a myriad of colors ranging from warm olive to bright red to experiment with.
Pashmina/Cashmere is very popular among royal families and celebrities; mainly because its simple yet extremely elegant ,provides much needed warmth and is very lightweight to pack and carry during travels.
Kate Middleton( Duchess of Cambridge) wearing cashmere stole. Picture credit : https://katemiddletonstyle.org/kate-wears/
Sometimes, Pashmina is also referred in the Western markets as “Cashmere” as the word takes its name from Kashmir region where the early art form originated. However, there’s a slight difference between the two. Firstly it’s the fineness of fibres; Pashmina is ultrafine while cashmere is slightly thicker (approx.16-20 microns). Secondly, the widely sold/known quality Cashmere is mainly produced in Mongolia from special goats’ undercoat and these goats are also found at a very high altitude.
To summarize, in layman’s terms Pashmina can be considered as relatively rare, premium and ultra-fine type of Cashmere. Regardless, both Cashmere and Pashmina are great fabrics and feel very soft on skin.