Buyers of cashmere shawls are being protected by the state government of Jammu and Kashmir from imitations with nanotechnology. To turn wool into a work of art that is the cashmere shawl is no easy task. Skilled Kashmiri weavers working on traditional spinning wheels and looms are behind creating this artistic product.
However, the art faces new challenges and one of them is automated spinning machines and looms that turn out shawls faster than handicraft workers. The annual trade in cashmere shawls now exceeds $752 million. The yarn must be spliced with synthetic fibres, for the automated looms to work on the fine 12-16 microns wool of the pashmina goat. Nano particles with unique codes are inserted in the authentication labels carrying the ‘Kashmir Pashmina’ legend, which has geographical indications (GI) protection under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the WTO.
Kashmiri craftsmen are benefitting from these measures. Experts say, fake pashmina shawl makers add nylon fibre to the wool before spinning and weaving it on machines. Professor Yasir Ahmad Mir of Srinagar’s Craft Development Institute, points out traditional Kashmiri spinning wheel and loom are perfect for producing fine pashmina fabric. Machine spinning is not meant for the extremely fine pashmina fibres, and so nylon is added to them.
Kashmir government’s initiatives to protect the interests of herders and craftspeople can be seen at the Pashmina Testing and Quality Certification Centre. Established at a cost of US$ 10 million, the centre has been functional since June.