Of Fibre And Fabric
The history of fabrics and textiles is as old as that of humankind itself. Historical evidence suggests that humans likely formalised the idea of clothing around 170,000 years ago in the later stages of the Old Stone Age. Silk, linen and cotton have been integral to fabric-making for thousands of years, as evidenced in the histories of civilisations such as India, Egypt and China. Over the course of thousands of years, humans honed and perfected the art of employing natural materials such as plant, insect and animal fibres to manufacture dazzlingly beautiful fabrics and clothing. Economic and capitalist concerns birthed petroleum-derived fabrics in the mid -20th century, ushering in an era of nylons, polyesters and other synthetic fibres that sadly dominate the market till today, with no signs of abating. Mercifully, the art of creating fabrics with natural materials has endured and thrived. For, no matter what the economic advantages of synthetic fibre may be, human skin is naturally more at home in natural fabric.
So What Exactly is Pashmina and Cashmere?
There is a significant amount of confusion regarding the terms "pashmina" and "cashmere". Many wonder whether they are the same, or whether there is a genuine difference that is worth being congisant of. The short answer is that there indeed is a significant difference. The long answer is much more nuanced and technical, and requires an understanding of the history, geography and politics of the regions where the goats are bred.
The word "cashmere" is an anglicisation of the word "Kashmir". What is known globally as "cashmere" originated from the region of Kashmir. Sadly, the use of the word cashmere has been rather loose, having been used to describe pure cashmere as well as pure pashmina. The word "Pashmina" itself is sadly misused widely, and has been used to describe everything from 100% pure pashmina to 100% synthetic mass -produced fare.
Pashmina and cashmere are both made from the soft undercoat of a breed of goat called Capra Hircus. It is generally acknowledged that these goats originated in Kashmir and were proliferated over time north into Inner Mongolia and other regions. The goats are bred by herders who have braved the extreme cold and harshness of their environs for hundreds of years. The goats sport a long, coarse outercoat and a fine, soft undercoat which they shed naturally every Spring. The wool being shed, or "moulted" is combed from the goats by hand and harvested. A complex, human-intensive process of de-hairing, washing and combing results in fibres that can be spun into yarn which in turn can be knitted or woven.
For the curious mind, we aggregate a few informative links in our blog.
Pashmina is made from a sub-species of Capra Hircus known as "Changhtangi" that thrives in the highlands of the Tibetan Plateau which stretches from Tibet all the way into Kashmir, India. Altitudes in the Tibetan plateau average around 4000 metres. Pashmina fibres measure 12-14 microns in thickness, and are 5-6 cm in length. Pashmina wool is never machine-spun. It is spun by hand using centuries' old techniques to produce a luxurious, yet delicate yarn that is in turn woven by hand. Less than 0.1% of the global supply of cashmere is sourced from pashmina goats. The relatively small population of pashmina goats, and the superior quality of their wool makes pashmina an expensive product to manufacture.
Picture courtesy of Ritayan Mukherjee (https://thewire.in/107793/changpas-make-cashmere)
Cashmere is made from a sub-species of Capra Hircus that thrives in Inner Mongolia and other regions. Cashmere fibres measure 15-19 microns in thickness, and are 2-4 cm in length. Cashmere wool can be both machine-spun and hand-spun. More than 98% of the world's cashmere yarn is sourced from goats bred in Mongolia.
Picture courtesy of http://www.mongolia-travel-guide.com
We endeavour to create our products from the finest natural fibres and fabrics, marrying a vibrant, modern aesthetic to traditional yarn- and fabric-making techniques. We are assiduous in our pursuit of provenance and technique, as we believe that these are the cornerstones upon which great design must be created. And that perhaps best explains our pursuit of fibre, fabric and manufacturing sourced from the very best, irrespective of geography, cost and logistics.