Shawl Wallah was born from the desire to create a brand sourcing truly ethical pashmina wool shawls, from its birthplace: Kashmir. The creator of Shawl Wallah, with a background in development work, saw a traditional industry struggling under a mix of globalism, inferior knock-offs, and political and violent regional turmoil. Experiencing these extremely soft and expertly crafted pieces, the idea for the Shawl Wallah brand was developed. Our goal is provide traditional and modern pure pashmina wool products, while striving to ensure every step in the production is sustainable, ethical, and transparent.
Shawl Wallah is a traditional term used by Indians in describing a Kashmiri travelling from Kashmir to India in the south with shawls for sale.
Pashmina vs Cashmere
While key items paramount to Shawl Wallah's mission; ethical production and outstanding quality of product are not the only goals for the brand. We also wanted to bring a little bit of education to the global market about pashmina, cashmere, and Kashmir. Don't worry, we won't go too into depth here, but will explain a bit about the differences. Pashmina goats are mainly native to the Kashmir region (Indian and Pakistani). The Pashmina goat grows an undercoat of extremely fine fur on its belly and chin, which helps keep it warm in the winter. In the spring, the goats shed this layer, which is the ultra-fine (and ultra-soft) wool used in the making of pashmina shawls. When first discovered by the "West", the wool was called "cashmere", in reference to the region in which it was discovered. Thus, the true and original pashmina shawls come from Kashmir, which is why our products are second to none.
ethical production model
First and foremost for Shawl Wallah surrounds the many people that have a hand in the pashmina production process. There are shepherds, wool spinners, wool dyers, loom weavers, and the families that support them. We source from a cooperative of families in the Srinagar, Kashmir region, which ensures no child labour is used, and that those multiple occupations aren't working in adverse conditions. Our payments go directly to those creating the project. Shawl Wallah's connectors in Kashmir that help us bridge language and cultural differences are paid independent of the artisans.
OK, they aren't our goats, but rather those our weavers and spinners source from. While there is still work to be done in Kashmir to bring a universal standard and process to monitor treatment, we work closely with our cooperative to ensure proper grazing (environmental) and proper care (animal welfare) surrounds the goats our wool is sourced from. #happysheeps is our goal
Shown here is a charkha, which is a traditional wool spinning tool (Gandhi often used one!). Our wool spinners use a modified version of this to spin the raw pashmina wool into workable yarn. The filaments are so fine that it can sometimes be hard to see while they are spinning away! The women in our cooperative are typically wool spinners, and do so sometimes in groups in someone's home, or in their own home.
The weavers of the cooperative are typically male, and again can work together on complex hand-looms, or may work in their own homes. The weaving process is the most time intensive, with most shawls taking 1-3 days to weave alone.
Our lightweight shawls are truly traditional pashminas, in that the wool is hand spun, and that yarn then hand woven on a loom.
For our heavyweight shawls, the wool is machine spun for a thicker yarn, and then hand woven on a loom. So while they don't meet the traditional definition of a pashmina shawl, they are still made of the same material, and woven in a similar fashion by hand.