Today I walked on Grant Avenue through San Francisco’s Chinatown and was met with what seemed to be hundreds of colorful scarfs dangling in the wind. As the pictures show, they were labeled as 100% Pashmina, and the prices were surprisingly low. I have been to many fiber and wool growers shows and have seen many goats, fleeces and rovings from different breeds of goats but never a pashmina goat or roving. I decided to read up on pashmina.
According to Wikipedia, “pashmina” is a type of cashmere wool from a changthangi or pashmina goat — a “special breed of goat indigeneous to high altitudes of the Himalayas in Nepal, Pakistan and northern India.” But, according to the Cashmere & Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCHMI), the term “pashmina” markets products that range from 100% cashmere to cashmere/silk blends. According to the CCHMI, labeling something “pashmina” is inherently ambiguous and misleading and is a marketing term that capitalizes on a fashion fad for cashmere shawls traditionally associated with India and Nepal. It is not recognized as a fiber designation under the Wool Products Labeling Act of the Federal Trade Commission. Whether the “pashmina” is a blend (for instance, 70% cashmere and 30% silk) or 100% cashmere, the label must so indicate.
Now, I couldn’t help wonder about the fiber and quality of the scarves and shawls dangling on Grant Avenue. Whether cashmere, cashmere/silk blend or the wool of the changthangi goat, given the oh so low price what was the quality of that fiber? Also, where were the goats raised? The best cashmere comes from goats raised in very cold and high-altitude places. How much did the people who raise the goats make from selling the fleece? What about the salary of the people working in the factories that spun the fiber or wove it into shawls and scarfs?
I didn’t buy any of the scarves, but I will go back to Artfibers and buy some of their yak yarn for my son-in-law’s next birthday present. I am saving any cashmere yarn for me. 🙂