Kashmiri Pashmina shawl industry facing challenge to survive

January 11th, 2009 - 4:37 pm ICT by ANI  

By Parvez Butt
Srinagar, Jan.11 (ANI): Buying the famous Pashmina shawl of Kashmir has been one of the major charms for anyone visiting the scenic valley or the State. But with a growing availability of cheap imitations of Pashmina shawls in the local markets, original Pashmina shawls” future is at stake.
For centuries the Pashmina shawls have been woven on handlooms from wool handspun from the shaggy coat of a goat, which lives in the heights of the Himalayas in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir state.
Thousands of Kashmiris are associated with the ancient trade. Women mostly spin and men weave the delicate yarn into warm, soft scarves and shawls, which are often embroidered.
Hundreds of Pashmina weavers, however, have felt compelled to take to other professions. For, cheap and machine-made shawls available around are affecting the original pieces” demand and particularly the duplicate items available here from Amritsar.
Shabir Ahmed, a wholesaler from Srinagar said that the fakes especially from Amritsar have put Pashmina trade into the doldrums.
“Hundreds of thousands of people are associated with this trade. Ladies spin the wool, the men weave the shawls and then there are other’’s who do embroidery on these shawls and the local hawkers sell these shawls. But these days we are facing problems due to the fakes from Amritsar. Due to this everything is in doldrums,” said Shabir Ahmed, a wholesaler dealing in Pashmina shawls in Srinagar.
Besides, the Pashmina shawl industry has not also suffered government neglect at times of local weavers” concerns.
Shahtoosh, wool derived from the hair of an endangered Tibetan antelope, shawls made from Pashmina wool are considered the world’’s finest and are exported worldwide.
According to officials, nearly 50,000 Pashmina shawls are still woven in Kashmir a year.
Local legend has it that Kashmiri shawls came to Europe after French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte presented one to his wife Josephine.
Kashmiri Pashminas, with intricate embroidery, can now fetch as much as rupees 500,000 (10,000 US Dollars) a piece at trendy boutiques and department stores in London or New York.
Plain hand-woven pieces are less expensive at a few hundred dollars, but even these are out of the reach of most people compared to good quality, machine-made alternatives which are priced at up to 2,500 rupees (52 US Dollars) each.
Another problem facing the Pashmina industry is lack of proper branding.
Local rue that the name “Pashmina” is used indiscriminately by weavers, and can be found on cheap, synthetic-fiber shawls as well as wraps made with a mix of wool and silk fibers.
Though witnessing the fake infiltration into Pashmina shawl industry, the government has decided to make GI mark compulsory for the Pashmina shawls. But the volume of work to be done is so much that the government has not been able to initiate this branding so far.
“This means from wherever the business is being generated, even from the imitations, it has to come back to Kashmir, to the craftsmen and to the traders. Second thing is that traditionally the outside people who were doing business now they will have to pay for this. They can”t do business just like this. Like by giving any fake name to their product. Now they will have to say ”Kashmir Pashmina” and they will have to say registered GI, only then can they sell and for doing that they will have to pay and I feel that after these measures business will definitely increase,” said Shariq Farooqi, Director, Craft Development Institute.
The name “Pashmina” is derived from the Persian for wool. (ANI)

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