In a 1999 article, Vogue announced that the pashmina was officially "dead". I was fairly mournful at the time, considering I had only recently embraced the trendy wrap. However, I now believe that this declaration was a conspiracy designed to steal the fashion fad back from the department store masses (like myself) in order to restore it to the Park Avenue set that made it popular in the first place. (Scroll through the photos of Park Avenue Peerage and you are bound to spot one hanging from the arms of a skinny socialista).
Josephine Bonaparte wrapped in pashmina, a gift from the governor of Kashmir in the 1790's.
Despite being sooo last decade, pashmina shawls and blankets have been produced in Northern India since the 17th century. Each spring, Himalayan mountain goats shed their winter coat. Fibers are collected by villagers and hand-woven into pashmina shawls. High altitudes create fleeces of very fine fiber, making pashmina the softest grade of cashmere and a naturally renewable resource. Because of the rarity and expense of pure pashmina, cashmere and silk are often woven together to create a similar weight and sheen.
Kate Middleton in a Katherine Hooker paisley shawl, March '07
New York Woman on the Street, from The Sartorialist.
Angelina Jolie arriving in Spain, June '07
The versatile and lightweight wraps are particularly useful in mild fall temperatures and airline travel.
Madeleine Trehearne and Harpal Brar combine traditional hand-woven and embroidery techniques with contemporary color and design (seen in a recent Vogue, natch).