"All Pashmina is cashmere... but not all cashmere is Pashmina"
From Pashm to Pashmina
The name Pashmina has its roots in the term PASHM, which originated in the Farsi language. Pashm is the cashmere fibre that grows naturally under the winter coat of endemic animals in Upper Asia.
The most sought-after is that of the Changthangi goat from Changthang's Transhimalayan region. The nomadic Changpa herders have been raising them for centuries.
The two most important criteria for determining the quality of pashmina are the finesse and the length.
Finally, colour also plays a major role. White is the most popular. However, it does not have a direct impact on the quality of the finished product.
It should be noted that the length and fineness of the pashm fibre is dependent on the climatic conditions in the goats' natural habitat. Thus, the more extreme the conditions, the denser and more compact the fleece will be. The result is a longer and finer fibre and, ultimately, a pashmina of better quality.
The diameter of natural fibres is expressed in microns.
While the average human hair measures about 70 microns, the pashminameasures between 12 and 15 microns.
The length of the fibre is also fundamental. The longer the fibre, the softer and silkier the finished product will be.
While the length of conventional cashmere fibre varies on average between 3.5 and 5 cm, the length required by the spinners of pashmina is at least 6 cm.
The artisans of the Kashmir Valley attach particular importance to the colour white.
Indeed, the latter is the most popular because of its ease of tinting.
Other natural colours of pashm are beige, brown and grey.
Unlike the "fineness" and "length" of the fibre, the colour has no impact on the quality of the finished product.
Pashmina & Shahtoosh
In the past, the most sought-after Kashemiri shawls were woven from the pashm of the Chiru antelope.
This species offers a cashmere fibre known as shahtoosh.
In short, one of the finest natural fibres ever woven by man (9 to 11 microns!).
Unfortunately, the Chiru Antelope cannot be domesticated!
Therefore, in order to obtain its precious pashm, it was necessary to slaughter the animal. This had devastating consequences for their population.
During the first half of the 20th century, the number of Chiru Antelopes exceeded one million, by 1960 their number had dropped to about 100,000.
Consequently, in 1979, the Chiru Antelope was listed in Appendix 1 of the International Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Since then, trade in shahtoosh and all its derivatives has been strictly forbidden and heavily sanctioned.