Is The Kashmiri Shawl On The Verge Of Extinction?

Up until recently cashmere was seen to be the ultimate in luxury clothing; unrivalled in its smooth texture and costing a small fortune, it was something few could afford. The fabric was even more exclusive in the 17th & 18th Centuries when pure pashmina shawls were first exported from Kashmir to Russia, Europe and the US for royalty such as Empress Eugenie and Napoleon Bonaparte鎶?wife Josephine.

More recently, we have seen cashmere reserved for top designers and exclusive stores. But no longer. The opening up of China鎶?vast Inner Mongolian province and China impressive production facilities to large retailers such as Tesco and Wal-Mart have increased availability, lowed price and, sadly, reduced the quality. But what will this ultimately mean for the jewel in the cashmere crown, the Kashmiri Ring Shawl?

What is a Ring Shawl?

Centuries old and immune to modernisation, a Ring Shawl must be hand spun and hand woven because the fibre is so fine that machine weaving would break it. Not all cashmere is manufactured in this way but the fabric used for a Ring Shawl is taken exclusively from the soft downy luxurious inner fleece of the goats that live in the most remote pockets of the Himalayan region of China, Tibet, Ladakh and Kashmir. The inner fleece typically sheds only 250gm to 275gm per year. The fabric in this instance is known as pashmina, rather than cashmere, coming from the word pashm which means king of cloths or wool.

The extraction process of pashmina can only in part explain the rarity and price of a Ring Shawl. In my opinion, it is the manufacturing process that makes 鎲刼ssessing one of these jewel-like collectibles like owning a tiny stake in the heritage of the multi-layered cultural identity?of Kashmir. From the designer and printer down to the spinner and weaver, the skills they use have been in operation since the 12th Century and each genuine Ring Shawl that is produced bears the embroidered signature of the family responsible for its creation.

And finally, to how the Ring Shawl got its name. So called because the garment is so fine that even a large shawl measuring 200cm x 100cm click this game website will pass through a wedding ring.
What is the Threat?

Inevitably anything experiencing such a mass market transformation must endure a ‘nip’ here and a ‘tuck’ there and quality is often the victim with inferior fibres and blended fibres undermining the reputation of the purest cashmere products. But it is not only the supply side that is threatening to eradicate the Ring Shawl. The perception of cashmere as the ultimate luxury clothing fabric amongst consumers has now changed. Abigail Abbas, the co-founder of the luxury accessories retailer, has noticed a change in consumer attitudes towards luxury cashmere shawls. 鎱en you can buy a cashmere jumper at Asda for ?2, paying ?00 for a pure pashmina shawl seems ludicrous to many shoppers even if it is of the highest quality? However, Ms Abbas goes on to say that those people who know the craftsmanship and quality that goes into the making of a Ring Shawl do not hesitate share our website when buying as they know that it will last a lifetime, unlike the 鎲坔row away?cashmere you find on supermarket shelves.

Unfortunately this trend looks set to continue as the price of cashmere is set to rise, as retailers who seek to maintain their margins will look to cheaper alternatives.

What Does this Mean for the Future of the Ring Shawl?

As suppliers switch to inferior fabric quality and blends to meet the demands of consumers and their balance sheets, the future of the Ring Shawl and the skills that make it such a unique and mysterious item look uncertain. However there is hope. In late 2008 Kashmiri Shawls were given Geographical Indication (GI) certification status. This is designed to protect it against imitation, gives a much needed boost to the handicraft industry of Kashmir and restores the items?exclusive reputation much like the GI certification given to Darjeeling Tea in 2007.

In addition by championing the Ring Shawl, retailers such as can not only bring beautiful exquisite quality shawls and scarves to the UK market, but in doing help to preserve the unique skills and livelihoods of many families in Kashmir.

To see’s range of Ring Shawls, please click in the following link – Pashmina Shawl

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