Pashmina: The Fabric of Royals
From Napolean Bonaparte to Nikolai Demidov: Vogue of Pashmina in Europe, Russia and Beyond.
It is believed that the Western women particularly had developed a romantic rapport with the Kashmiri Shawls. From Kings to explorers everybody had to ensure that on returning home, the Pashmina Shawls is brought as a present for their beloveds.
The Pashmina came into the limelight in Europe during the reign of Napoleon. In 1798, Bonaparte successfully attacked Egypt, at that time part of the Turkish Empire was under Selim III. Among the booty gathered from Turkish janissaries were Kashmir shawls, which were adopted by delighted French court ladies and became high fashion. The Empress Josephine, ever extravagant, is said to have owned as many as sixty Kashmiri shawls. Not only was the shawl high fashion, but its high cost made it a status symbol, and its exotic origin and design fed into nineteenth-century romantic enthusiasm for all things Oriental.
Europe & Pashmina
In the nineteenth century, shawl design in Kashmir received a powerful external stimulus and change of course when European attention impinged upon local tastes.
Kashmir had long since captured the imagination and wonder of European travelers and this proved the case with Napoleon Bonaparte when he made his journey to the East. Napoleon showered Empress Josephine, his wife, with all the love and adoration you could and often brought timeless pieces of art and fashion on his return from his long and epic journeys across the orient. In one such display we can see Empress Josephine depicted in a portrait wearing a beautiful and extravagant Kashmir shawl dotted with the beautiful and timeless motifs from the epic land of Kashmir. Empress Josephine:
Likewise, the super-wealthy of European gentry was also had a penchant for expressing their love with the gift of Kashmir Paisley shawls from the beautiful and respected land in the East. Nikolai Demidov, a wealthy Russian who dominated the mines and foundries of the Urals region in Russia was very fond of expressing his undying love to his wife, Yelizaveta Demidova (1779-1818). Yelizaveta who was a baroness no less had developed an exquisite taste for timeless fashion and made sure that her husband in expressing his chivalrous and unbridled passion give her nothing but Kashmir Paisley shawls embroidered with the most beautiful and timeless motifs. Yelizaveta Demidova:
Nobel Families and Kashmir Pashmina.
As Europeans expanded commerce and colonies in Asia, aspiring wives of newly rich industrialists followed the style of their aristocratic sisters, and shawls became essential items of dress. Supply could not meet demand, and European manufacturers hastened to share this lucrative market. Not only did they strive to copy styles of Kashmir, but also to modify designs for European tastes. Eventually, they also sent designs to Kashmir to be woven and then returned to Europe for sale.
During the early parts of 19th century, the shawls industry in Kashmir skyrocketed with exports – from United Kingdom to France to the far East as Russia. In those times, the Pashmina Industry was providing the livelihood to more than one hundred thousand employees. But that was the year 1822, we are talking about, unfortunately in the present scenario – due to the industrialization – there have remained only a handful of artisans who try to melt their hands on the craft of their ancestors.