Cashmere Crisis in the Himalayas
February 8, 2020 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Pashmina, the softest cashmere in the world, is grown in one of its most extreme locations. This photo essay documents life for Cashmere farmers at 4000 metres and -40 (celsius or fahrenheit, it's the same!).
posted by smoke (9 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up hearing about pashmina shawls. Fakes abound. The real thing is glorious. Warm and magically lightweight and soft, so soft.

Shawl merchants in Lahore and Lucknow talk about how much harder it has become to source them. I hadn't made the climate change connection until reading this.
posted by bardophile at 7:31 PM on February 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

huh, apparently the 'pashmina ring test' doesn't pass muster anymore ("with the advent and use of fabric softeners, any soft fabric, even viscose, can pass through a ring today")

Due to the decreasing numbers of this rare Himalayan goat and increasing demand for genuine Cashmere from the Ladakh region of Kashmir, scientists at the University of Kashmir decided to clone the world’s first Pashmina Goat.

saw this recently on how competitive the global wool market is: "What Washington State has managed to do with their Cosmic Crisp apple, Mr. Ramsden hopes to do for New Zealand's sheep industry with his Astino DFC sheep breed..."

maybe kashmiri herders can branch out to air filtration for spacecraft? "...wool filters are exclusively capable of filtering out formaldehyde from the air. They're also uniquely capable of filtering out impurities in a spacecraft if there's an on-board fire – like molten plastics."

Another issue of concern is the increasing numbers of Snow Leopards in the region putting their animals at increasing risk of attack.

good/bad news!?

also himalayan mountain dogs are the cutest :P
posted by kliuless at 8:11 PM on February 8, 2020 [6 favorites]

Once cleaned and processed the wool from a single Cashmere goat only amounts to a mere 4 ounces. Once the fibres are manually sorted, cleaned and hand spun the weaving process can begin, which is equally demanding and painstaking.

It takes several months to a year for highly skilled artisans to work their magic on wooden looms and weave a masterpiece which will be exported around the world and sold for between US$200 and US$2000 by luxury retailers.
110g per goat and a completely hand made process from start to finish. These people are not getting paid enough for their efforts.
posted by Mitheral at 9:15 PM on February 8, 2020 [12 favorites]

As someone who indulges in spinning as a hobby, I've been low-key aware about this. There is also a lot of competition even in that space from Chinese cashmere and fake/acrylic cashmere.
posted by cendawanita at 9:45 PM on February 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ah, but then there's qiviut... with goats, you have a relatively domesticated animal to deal with. Imagine working with an adult musk ox that weighs three times your weight and is anything but domestic! Qiviut is averages slightly larger than pashmina (around 18µ versus 12µ to 15µ for pashmina) but is lighter and even warmer.

Living in Fairbanks, Alaska for four years, I had the pleasure of seeing musk ox at the Large Animal Research Station (LARS, on qiviut — as well as the Musk Ox Farm, outside Palmer, AK (

My textile-artist/weaver/knitter ex proclaimed qiviut to be superior to cashmere (even after having knit me a pair of cashmere socks!). She, too, had been convinced. I think that marketing has helped the mystique of cashmere in general, and pashmina in particular.
posted by aldus_manutius at 12:57 AM on February 9, 2020 [9 favorites]

I just love wool so, so much. I'd wear a lot more wool if I could afford it. Underwear, even. Even so-called "scratchy" kinds of wool don't bother me much. Guess my skin is not sensitive to it. But of course the softer kinds feel even better.

If anyone has a link or suggestion where to buy men's woolen pants that are tough and cut like jeans (i.e., not wool dress slacks), PLEASE let me know.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:45 PM on February 9, 2020

I often use a "Pashmina" as a winter scarf. I put the quotation marks on the term because I've long suspected that what I've bought isn't really pashmina. Sure the label says "100% Pashmina" on the one I'm currently sporting but that's all it says--nothing to indicate where it was made or any other information (such as the true percentage of the fibre mix). I also know that I didn't pay a lot for it, and that the store had a wide variety of colours and patterns in stock, so it's not a rare item.

It's not that I'm unhappy with it. I like the look and the size and it does the job I want it to do, but I would love to know that it either is what it proclaims to be or it's not. (My money is on the latter.) I didn't buy it because it was called a "Pashmina" but I dislike supporting companies and industries that engage in consumer fraud or counterfeiting of goods.
posted by sardonyx at 2:56 PM on February 9, 2020

Sardonyx: You can try snipping a bit if it has fringe and doing a burn test on your "pashmina". They are sometimes made from rayon or acrylic and rayon.
posted by Botanizer at 5:07 PM on February 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've got a pretty good sense of fabric, and I can usually tell a synthetic from a natural fibre, etc. I'm pretty sure it's a fine wool. I just don't know if it sheep, goat, etc. I'm good but I'm not that good. Still, thanks for that link to the burn test. I'm sure it will be useful in the future.
posted by sardonyx at 8:09 PM on February 9, 2020

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