Carrying forward pashmina's legacy

Carrying forward pashmina's legacy

Designer note

After getting married in 2002, Varuna Anand became a full-time housewife and a mother, devoting all her time to household chores. All this while her husband, Parveen Anand kept pursuing her to continue her love for textiles, but she paid little heed to him. Finally, he started a venture ‘The Splendor of Kashmir’ in 2011, and it gave Varuna an opportunity to go back to her passion — textile designing.

“I was married into a family in Jammu and Kashmir which has been in the state for generations. The family has been a keen collector of shawls, especially my mother-in-law’s shawls’ collection is still an enviable one. Fulfilling my late husband’s wish, I came in touch with old suppliers of shawls, who had been making shawls for our family, and that got me deeper into this work,” recalls the Jammu-based textile designer. 

As she began interacting with local pashmina craftsmen and weavers in and around Srinagar, she was intrigued by its historical legacy. “Shawls from Kashmir have been an eminent part of the most desired textiles from India and the world over. These shawls have been a luxurious commodity since their inception and have survived on royal patronage as we look back into history,” mentions Varuna, who markets and retails hand woven and embroidered shawls through her label.

She however was quick to realise the gap between collectors and craftsmen and the stiff competition that the cottage industry is facing from machine-produced pashmina shawls.

“As the oldest handicraft in the state, it is one of the most important cottage industries in Kashmir on which the livelihood of a sizeable amount of people depend. It can take 10-12 months for weavers to create a single piece of embroidered pashmina shawl. The value of something hand woven is more than that of something which is machine-made,” she tells Metrolife, adding, “We wanted to show that even today there are some craftsmen and weavers who can match up to the traditional workmanship, which was done 50 years ago.”

Explaining the extensive handwork on the fine type of cashmere wool, she says, “All steps from combing (removing impurities and aligning fibers) and spinning, to weaving and finishing, is entirely carried out by hand. The extensive embroideries done on this fragile fabric without tearing or damaging it speak volumes for the art of shawl making in Kashmir. The price paid for a shawl is for the intricate art.”

Currently selling online, Varuna will soon be hosting a number of exhibitions across India including in Delhi and Mumbai in the coming months showcasing the works of the craftsmen from the Valley.

While there are many ventures around selling the fine type of wool, Varuna says that quality and aesthetics make her venture stand out. “Indeed there are many pashmina shawl sellers and we are relatively new entrants in the market.

 But it is not just a commercial venture for us. We sell only the finest workmanship where every piece is to be cherished and treasured for generations to come,” she says.

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