The state of Kashmir is not only famous for its wonderful climate and natural beauty but also for its exquisite textile crafts. Here we talk about studying the major textile crafts that have been prevalent in Kashmir for long, such as Kashmiri carpets, shawls, tweed, silk as well as embroidery and the various versions with which you can style it. Its everything you need to know about Kashmiri textiles.
Shawls made in Kashmir are adored both in India and internationally. The Shahtoosh and Pashmina shawls made in Kashmir are world-famous.
Shahtoosh shawls are made from the wool of the Tibetan antelope. These shawls are very light and soft. They are extremely expensive because the wool used in making these shawls is scarce. The soft hair from the throat of the antelope is used for making these shawls. A few of this hair fall off naturally when the antelopes graze. They are collected and are then used in weaving shawls. Shahtoosh shawls may either be pure or mixed with Pashmina in order to reduce the cost. The specialty is that they are so finely woven that the entire shawl can pass through a ring. It is for this reason that such shawls are known as ‘Ring shawls’. They are usually not dyed and are used in their natural color i.e. light brown.
Pashmina shawls are made from the wool of the Kel sheep found in the Himalayan mountains. Such shawls are extremely soft and do not hurt the skin of the wearer. Pashmina scarves and stoles are also weaved. Pashmina shawls are less expensive as compared to Shahtoosh shawls.
The tweed material woven in Kashmir is well known the world over. It is considered to be one of the best materials in the world. The raw material that is used in producing tweed is obtained from outside Kashmir; however, Kashmiri tweed is woven using imported techniques and is of extremely good quality. The production of tweed is a job undertaken by a majority of the people of Kashmir.
Like Kashmiri tweed, Kashmiri silk is also famous across the globe. Weaving and printing of silk are generally not undertaken in Kashmir. However, cocoon rearing is undertaken on a large scale here, which yields the best quality of silk. Rearing cocoons is one of the major occupations of the people of Kashmir.
Kashmiri embroidery or (Kasida)
Locally known as Kasida, the designs used in this embroidery are inspired by the natural beauty of Kashmir. Landscape designs, Chinar leaves as well as mythological figures are commonly used in Kasida embroidery. Usually, such embroidery is done on woolen or cotton cloth.
Styling with Kashmiri clothing
Pheran is the prominent attire for Kashmiri women. Pheran usually has Zari embroidery on the hemline, around pockets, and mostly around the collar area. Ladies prefer suit and Burkha during summers and Pheran is preferred during autumn. The headdress of a Kashmiri woman is a brightly colored scarf or Tarang which is stitched to a suspended cap with a cloth around it which extends down towards the heels. The Tarang is an integral part of the wedding attire among Hindus.
It has been observed that over the years the people of Jammu and Kashmir have adopted the dressing styles and habits of the west as well as those of other regional Indian cultures. However, Pherans have made a comeback and become a part of the Indian modern fashion worn by females all over India.
Kashmiri men have appropriated western attire to a great extent too. Kashmiri men have turned pherans as a fashionable outfit by combining it with jeans. Pheran has also made its way into the office world. The modern pheran is not as wide or as long as the traditional version and sometimes has side slits. It has now become uncommon to wear pheran with a salwar.
The Kashmiri youth adapting the western style prefer jeans and shirt. Despite these influences, the traditional Pheran continues to remain the symbol of the culture and couture of fashion in Jammu and Kashmir.
Fashion Designers incorporating Kashmiri textiles in their clothing
The unique textile traditions from the valley are beautifully recreated by many designers – both Indian and International. From Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra and Ritu Kumar with their Kashmiri embroideries to Blumarine and Raffughar with using fabrics and implementing weave techniques from their culture, it's as wonderful as it comes.
Now since the crafts and textiles of Indian have crossed all borders, the designs you see from the international designers are not only modern avatars of India but also an acknowledgment of the universal celebration of beautiful ideas; they are a validation of the ease with which international designers are able to inject their own design DNA into India's timeless fabrics. It is as if Made in India, Made by India, Made for India are all the same thing.
Where to shop for Kashmir textiles In India
Here are a few places in India from where you could procure the best of Kashmir’s culture and heritage in the purest form.
Andraab in Jaipur - A family-run business with outposts throughout India, Andraab focuses on the highest quality cashmere pashminas made in the Kashmir region of India.
Kamayani in Delhi - Kamayani hasn’t been in the textile business for very long, but it’s found to have an excellent eye, as proved by their amazing selection of new and vintage textiles from many regions of India.
Saurashtra Impex in Jaipur - Many interior designers from around the world visit this shop for the vast collection of new and vintage dhurries and embroideries from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir and more.
KCS Kashmir Shawl Emporium in Delhi – One of the best places to shop for Pashmina Shawls, jackets, suits, and Kani weave saris.
Mateen Dijoo with his enterprise Blossoms of Heaven commits to providing an exclusive genuine handmade range of pashmina including shawls, scarves, stoles, ponchos to clients in varied forms, textures, styles & colors.
Akee International is yet another leading Manufacturer of Hand-woven Hand embroidered Pashmina. Akee International is a famous quality mark for cashmere products, with the experience of 35 years in handling processing and manufacturing of world-famous Kashmir shawls.
But if you’re in and around J&K, the best place to shop would be the J&K Government Emporium opposite Dal Lake, Srinagar.
From the IKF Desk on Everything, you need to know about Kashmiri textiles
The handicraft industry remained an important key in the economic development of J&K state and the industry has a great handout towards employment opportunities. After handicrafts gained foreign exposure with positive feedback, many youths made this, their profession. Being the second-largest and preferable industry after fruits in the Kashmir Valley, and with the recent bifurcation of J&K, the future of the handicraft industry of Kashmir and its age-old textiles can go either way!