In Nepal, this fabric has long been a part of local clothing, and Pashmina has been produced in the homes of local weavers for generations. It was only during the 90’s that this fabric suddenly came into prominence in the international market with several houses of fashion adopting it. The humble Pashmina that many Nepali grandmothers have used, and still use today, suddenly became the darling of the fashion world and demand soared and supply scrambled to catch up and cash in. During the 90’s, just about everyone in Kathmandu jumped into the Pashmina producing bandwagon and when fashions changed, many producers found themselves all wrapped up and nowhere to go.
In its purest form, Pashmina was made from the fine wool of mountain goats, which dropped off naturally from these beasts. This extremely fine wool, which has a diameter of about 13 microns, was collected and woven into yarn using traditional spinning methods. The yarn was then woven into Pashmina products
like shawls, scarves and blankets, in a process involving extensive manual labor. Nowadays however, most Pashmina commonly available in the market are a blend of cotton, silk or synthetic fibers. The price of a Pashmina item varies according to the mix of material used, but to an untrained buyer, this mix is hard to differentiate at a precise level.
Hard to imagine though that the fine fabric that has adorned so many elegantly dressed folk has its origins in the rather unfriendly mountain goat. Locally known as Chyangra, trekkers in the mountainous regions of Nepal would likely have come across this species of the domesticated mountain goats, especially in the higher mid and western regions of Nepal.
These mountain goats are endemic to the higher Himalayas, and are domesticated by locals throughout these regions. Despite claims and counterclaims about the origin of Pashmina and the pedigree of related material like Cashmere, it can be noted that this fabric is an invention of the Himalayan people before political borders became so important. Thus Pashmina and Cashmere have no definite nationality. There is often a distinction in the process of production and the style of the final product. For example, a lot of Kashmiri Pashmina has embroidery work while those produced here tend to be plain but in the end, it’s a material that originated from the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal and Tibet.