An Interview with Yinder Pashmina Society - The Harbingers of Certified Pashmina in Kashmir

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Until very recently, if you were to buy a coveted Pashmina shawl, chances were you being worried about its authenticity. With so many varieties of fake Pashmina abound in markets, customers would never have anidea if this precious piece in their hands is actually worth it or not.

But a couple of years ago, realizing the seriousness of this issue, the government of J&K took the matter in their own hands and started using nanotechnology to label Pashmina products. The decision was taken to keep in mind the interest of general public especially those who are keen buyers of Pashmina.

To know more about how this technology, we went straight to our vendors who deal with GI Pashmina shawls. Yinder Pashmina Society, is a group of artisans, who have come together to restore the art of Pashmina making to its original glory. Their Pashmina wraps bear a seal of GI, which can be used to trace the artisan behind its making. We had a quick session withShowkat Ahmed and Abdul Rouf to know more about how to check whether a Pashmina is authentic or not.

How did you come up with the idea of promoting GI Pashminas

The idea came more casually. A group of friends were just talking about Pashmina and how the market has introduced fake and cheap copies of the same to make customers believe that what they are selling is actually Kashmiri Pashmina. Hence we decided to put our hands into this craft and introduce to the world the GI Pashminas, pure and authentic.

Our Pashminas went through so many tests, and quite a few times we felt nervous about if our shawls could pass them all. But the shawl passed each test smoothly. From then onwards, there was no stopping us and allour endeavors were directed to improve the quality of this precious craftfurther.

 How much effort does it take to make one Pashmina shawl.

From its inception of collecting Pashm from Ladakh to when a Pashmina shawl is complete, there are a total of 33 steps and of course 33different artisans who toil day and night to process the shawl.  Steps like weaving, spinning, clipping, dyeing are known to everyone. But there are other basic activities like carpentry,string making and other small artisan activities which contribute towards the making of a Pashmina.

 Talking about artisans, is this toil enough for these 33 artisans to make their ends meet?

Frankly speaking, no. I remember the time when our grandmothers used to spin the Pashm threads and earned one rupee per knot. And unfortunately, until very recently, grassroots artisans used to earn the same amount. This amount has thankfully changed now, and we have raised this basic amount from one rupee to 40-50 rupees per knot. This way our artisans get encouraged to work. And the more they work, the more they earn. It is simple! And perhaps this is the reason, Yinder Pashmina Society has over 500 artisans under its fold.

 And perhaps this is the reason you decided to work with Kashmir Box. How did you come to know about us?

We have a friend who also happens to be a vendor of KashmirBox, and he was the one who made us familiar with Kashmir Box.

Yinder was a dream. Kashmir Box fulfilled this dream. We knew we could satisfy the customer by serving him the most genuine product, but at what level. Just local level. What about those Indian and internationalPashmina buyers who are being deceived by fake Pashmina sellers. Kashmir Boxhelps customers worldwide. This is the platform which can make people all over the world aware of the difference between real and fake Pashminas. This was the platform we alwaysneeded. Now the uphill climb that we started will pay off.

 So you see a difference between other Pashmina sells and Kashmir Box?

Yes, we had some connections with other suppliers, retailers and even websites, but choosing someone to partner with needs trustworthiness. And that’s what we found in Kashmir Box. This platform is always in a quest tosell original products sourced from the origin. And that attracted us moretowards it.

 The customers ofKashmir Box or even those who aren’t with us right now, have seen a greatvariety in Pashmina. Some sell it under a different name, some sell it under adifferent brand, so on and so forth. So what is the Kashmiri Pashmina actually?

An original Kashmiri Pashmina is the one with the GI tag.Nothing else is original. Take the example of gold. You can’t call every metalgold till it bears all properties that the actual gold metal bears. Similar isthe case of Pashmina.

For a layman, GI Mark is a stamp which is put on any productlike scarfs, stoles, shawls, coats, or any manufactured product from the realPashmina material which is;

1:- Hand-spun;

2:- Hand-woven;

3:- 12 to 16 microns of fiber diameter.

The stamp is patented in which one can see 100% Genuine andRegistered Pashmina under U.V light and green sparkling under laser light. Theregistration number on the stamp can be tracked online i.e. the manufacturer ofproduct, his phone number and address. The stamping is done to those Pashminaartisan who is registered under the GI Authority of India head office atChennai. Kashmir has this advantage because of the following reasons:

  • Only the womenfolk of Kashmir can spin Pashminaon yinder
  • The traditional loom over which Pashmina getswoven is only in Kashmir
  • Only Ladakh region of Kashmir, which is also the highest plateau on the earth, has goats called Changthang which can make‘Pashm” or fiber of 12 to 16 microns of diameter

 The age of this shawl is 100 years or even more. The shawl which aren’t as pure as the GI Pashmina have less life.

Great, and this just makes us feel more proud of being Kashmiris. So, moving forward, ever since you joined Kashmir Box, do you feel there has been a difference in the financial condition of a grassroot artisan?

Sincerely speaking, the artisan has never cared about his wages. But there is something he has cared for more than anything else. That is to save our craft. The Kashmiri craft that is dying. And that is where Kashmirbox has come to an aid. The artisan makes a genuine product, but the customer wants a fake one. This is where the artisan wants a change. That is where the artisan needs Kashmir Box. To help his defend his original craft. To help him tell the world that they are being lied to. To make them aware of what originals. When the customer knows the difference, he will certainly pay the artisan what his craft actually deserves. And that is how the artisan will survive.

 Pashmina is a centuries old art. Being a part of it from a long time now, do you ever feel that Pashmina has changed over the years?

Till the year 2000, Pashmina was available in its pure form. But after this year, fake Pashmina buyers abound the market and started mixing nylon or woolen threads with Pashm threads, and selling them at cheaper prices. This way pure Pashmina, as well as its artisans, suffered a lot until very recently. Now customers, although very few, have become aware of real and fake. We are again thankful to Kashmir Box which took pains in the pursuance of original Pashmina and started campaigns against the fake ones.

 Yinder always strived for the glory of original Pashmina. In fact, Yinder is a name which customers look for. Do you have something else in the store to make your customers more delighted?

Till now we have strived hard to improve the quality of pashmina and by Lord’s grace we have successfully achieved it. But we want this pure quality Pashmina to have a worldwide reach. We are right now into product development and we don’t want Pashmina to remain confined to shawls and wraps. We have introduced Pashmina suiting, pashmina scarves, and a few sweaters. Also, we need to contact more designers and introduce fresh designs in already existing Pashmina products

 We are really happy and excited and can’t wait for these new collections from you. We will end this session with a message that you may have for worldwide Pashmina patrons. Do you want to convey something on the eve of the new year?

First of all, we want to wish everyone a very happy new year. May this year be the year of positivity in our lives.

For Pashmina lovers and buyers, we have an advice that don’t fall prey to anything that sells in the market by the name Pashmina or cashmere. Whether you choose Kashmir Box, Yinder Pashmina Society or any other vendor to buy a Pashmina, always check the GI seal first. Save yourselves. Save our craft. Save our Artisans.

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