Kashmir's pashmina woes

Kashmir
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Pashmina Making Luiz Paulo Oliveira Paula under a Creative Commons Licence

Machine manufacturing of Pashmina scarves has saturated the market, leaving artisans without hope of a secure future, writes Nathalie Olah.

In March, scores of Pashmina weavers took to the streets of Srinagar to protest against the devaluation of their industry at the hands of large-scale corporations. Machine manufacturing of Pashmina scarves has saturated the market, leaving artisans who have sustained the craft for centuries without hope of a secure future.

The recent boom in Pashmina sales has also led to a secondary industry, built around the buying and selling of forgeries, reducing the demand for authentic wool. The nomadic lifestyle of the goat herders makes for treacherous living, often at altitude and under the very real threat of encountering snow leopards. But the trade forms such an important part of the local economy that most would struggle to find alternative work.

Efforts to rehabilitate the local industry are being led by individuals such as Babar Afzal, a Kashmir native and former employee of a global management consultancy firm. He brings suppliers and consumers closer together to reduce the possibility of exploitation by tradespeople and the fashion industry, and helps to raise awareness of the fake Pashmina trade and the damage it is causing to local people by driving down prices. But it is clear that both the fashion industry and consumers will need to push for change and accountability if there is to be a long-term solution.