Owning a genuine piece of Pashmina is a wishful dream of all women across ethnicities, ages and barriers. For over a thousand years the finest craftsmanship of Kashmir artisans' hand spinning and weaving a masterpiece has been a token of sophistication on a different level. The gorgeous and elegant Pashmina shawl has been the statement of class for the elite. From locals of the valley to the royalty of England, it has earned its way in the closet of all. Throughout history, kings, queens and other nobility were the only ones who could afford to have shawls made from this ultra-luxurious fabric.
But is your Pashmina genuine? For years, this question has troubled Cashmere Pashmina lovers across the world, who find themselves stuck in the dilemma of distinguishing the real masterpiece from the fake ones spanning the markets.
And so it was with the artisans - their deft craftsmanship being overtaken by powerful mill owners who would create machine made replicas of the luxuriant craft and deprive the keepers of the weave of their basic sustenance and skill which they have spent years to master.
It is for this purpose and that of preserving the heirloom traditions of Kashmir, that the G.I seal on Pashmina was introduced. A G.I Certified Pashmina is one which has been handspun and handwoven by Kashmiri craftsmen from original Ladakhi Pashm fibre and bears a seal of authenticity carrying a unique code which can be cross verified to trace its origins.
What is a G.I Certified Pashmina?
The Pashmina has been registered under the Geographical Indications (G.I) of Good Act of India on 09-12-2008. The registration is an acknowledgment of the fact that the handicraft is unique and is produced in a particular area with traditional knowledge and skills, special to the region.
A Kashmiri Pashmina G.I. mark labeled product has a covert and a visible unique code, which comes in the form of a seal and can be searched on http://www.kashmirpashmina.secure-ga.com to verify authenticity. However, for the Pashmina to qualify for a G.I seal, it has to meet certain specifications and pass a stringent laboratory test which makes it all the more reliable to have one.
A G.I Pashmina In the Making
Before making its way into the world of luxury fashion, the classical Kashmiri Pashmina traverses a long and elaborate path which begins at an altitude of over 15000 feet somewhere in the mountain regions of Leh, the home to breathtakingly beautiful and rare Changthangi Goats. The Goat, in a regal demeanor, combats the cold climates of the mountains with his rich and plush wool, which comes to be known as Pashm or Soft Gold. Come summer and the goat sheds its wool through a natural process, leaving it behind for the knowers of its worth to gather and process it with utmost skill and dedication. A manual process of dusting the Pashm follows to remove adhered impurities like sand, dust, and more. The fibre is then sorted on the basis of its finesse, length, and color.
This Pashm fiber is then sent to the Valley of Kashmir, where it is about to meet the most skilled of craftsmen who will get it ready for the world to indulge in. On its arrival, the Pashm is first dehaired. The process filters out the outer coat of guard hair for the Pashm to be processed further. Removing the outer guard hair helps improving the appearance, handle and quality of the final product. The dehaired fibre is now fit to be spun into yarns.
The process of spinning the Pashm fibre has traditionally been done by the womenfolk over a Charkha like wheel known as Yinder. Operating the Yinder is altogether a skill of the hand. Women impale the dehaired raw Pashmina repeatedly on an upright comb which is set on a wooden stand. The combed Pashmina is obtained in the form of a Tumb followed by gluing with soaked rice. The Pashm, which is now handspun is now ready to meet its weaver.
And hence we arrive at the next and perhaps the most important step in the sojourn of the Pashm – its weaving. The Pashmina yarn is mounted over a handloom from which it is woven by skilled artisans into warps and wefts to form luxury wraps and apparel. The wraps or apparel hence conjured is given varied colors using dyes by the Rangur. The luxury Pashmina is then washed and ironed for the final finishing to refine its grandiose. It is then that it is sent for G.I Testing. Once passed, the wrap becomes an unquestionable piece of luxury.
So what makes A G.I Pashmina special?
Perhaps the finesse of the fibre which forms its essence, or the skill with which it is spun over a Charkha like wheel called Yinder or the elaborate process which goes into wedding it into warps and wefts over the traditional loom – or all of them put together, preserving the tradition of shawl weaving in the place of its birth.
For a Pashmina to qualify for G.I Certification, it has to meet 3 major specifications:
a. It should be made of 100% Pashmina Fiber having fineness of below 16 microns and obtained from the under fleece of mountain goat "Capra Hiracus".
b. Handspun on traditional wheel (Charkha).
c. Woven by artisans traditionally and skillful developed unique handloom specific to it.
And now that we know we can rely on the assurance of G.I, there is all the more reason to cherish the heart with the warm embrace of a Pashmina made in heaven!