The history of cashmere pashminas is just as interesting as the scarves are beautiful.
Their origin lies in Nepal, where our scarves are made. Their name comes from Persia – the fibre in the scarves is called pashm or pashmina, the Persian word for wool. There is evidence that cashmere has been produced in Kashmir and Nepal for thousands of years – literature found dating from the 3rd century BC to the 11th century AD refer to woollen shawls.
Here are five interesting facts about the history of cashmere pashminas:
1. The cashmere wool industry dates back to pre-14th century Persia
Only small communities in Nepal and across Persia were crafting the woollen scarves until the late 14th century, when the poet and scholar Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani introduced Himalayan goats’ wool to Kashmir, where the word ‘cashmere’ has come from. Their wool is extra thick to insulate them from the cold weather on the mountains.
Hamadani helped develop a weaving industry in Kashmir. The ruler of Kashmir, Zain-ul-Abidin, also had an important role to play – he introduced weavers with more advanced techniques from Turkestan.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte’s 18th century campaign in Egypt brought pashminas to Paris
The scarves reached Western Europe following the 1799-1802 French campaign in Egypt. The general in chief sent one back to Paris and its popularity put plans in motion for a French pashmina industry.
Bonaparte’s wife, the Empress Josephine, began wearing pashmina-style shoulder shawls, sealing their reputation as the height of fashion amongst the upper class. In particular, they would wear scarves with elaborate patterns for significant political and religious events.
3. Scotland, France and Italy were the main European cashmere manufacturers in the 19th century
In Scotland in 1830, a £300 reward was offered to the first person able to spin cashmere using the same system as the French. Captain Charles Stuart Cochrane received the prize in 1833.
He collected the information he needed on a visit to Paris in 1831. His discovery triggered the beginning of a large-scale Scottish cashmere industry after he received a patent for the process and sold it on to a manufacturing company.
4. The first commercial cashmere dehairing machine was invented in 1890
This greatly simplified the production process. These machines remove guard hairs from the material which would make it feel too coarse and not soft enough.
Also, the invention of the mechanised Jacquard loom rapidly accelerated the manufacturing timeline. It allowed for mass production of elegant patterns and helped increase supply of cashmere pashminas.
5. The American Industrial Revolution secured cashmere’s global popularity
Once cashmere reached North America, its world tour was complete. Uxbridge, Massachusetts was one of the first textile centres in the Blackstone Valley and became known for its production of cashmere wool.
By the mid-20th century, cashmere manufacturing had become a large-scale business.
Today, cashmere is produced all over the world and in a number of different styles for blending the wool and silk. Sundar cashmere pashminas use a rare blend – 80% cashmere wool to 20% silk – which is one of the richest, softest combinations possible. Take a look at our shop, where you will find a beautiful range of scarves, all hand crafted in Nepal – back where it all began.