"pash·mi·na (psh-mn)n." 1.Fine, downy wool growing beneath the outer hair of feral Himalayan goats. 2.A soft fabric made of this wool. Persian pashmne, woolen garment, Pashmina, from pashmn, made of wool, from pashm, wool, down.]

Pashmina is derived from a Persian word "Pashm". The wool derives from the Capra Hircus mountain goat from the Ladakh region of Kashmir. This is a special breed of goat indigenous to the high altitude of the Himalayas between 12,000ft-17,000ft, and as such grow fleeces of very fine fibres which are exceptionally light and warm.

This wool is fleeced from the animals in summer and is totally renewable as the goats produce the fibres with the onset of winter. The goats are domesticated for Pashmina production, however, it is important to note the distinction between Pashmina and Shahtoos. Shahtoos is made from the hair of Tibetian Antelope, the trade of which is banned under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The Pashmina shawls made in Kashmir find written mention in Afghan texts between 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD. However, the founder of the Pashmina wool industry is traditionally held to be the 15th century Mughal ruler of Kashmir, Zayn-ul-Abidin, who introduced weavers from Central Asia using a loom and techniques that are still in operation today.

In this fast and technologically advanced world, one may ask why are artisans still using implements derived from the 15th Century. The reason being that the Pashmina thread is so soft that machines are unable to weave it. Even weaving by hand the thread often breaks and it is joined again by pressing the two threads together with bare fingers. The Pashmina artisans are predominantly mountain farmers who take up this art as a part time activity, handed down from father to son, from one generation to another. These artisans live in within a natural environment in the Himalayas of Kashmir, and the weaving and embroidery performed is an art only mastered by these artisans.

Pashmina has 2 natural colours, namely white and a light shade of brown. To obtain other colours, the shawls or stoles are dyed with very mild natural dyes. Modern day techniques using dye printing is revolutionising the product enabling designs that could never be embroidered or dip-dyed.