Andraab: exquisitely embroidered cashmere

Vibrant, hand-woven textiles, from peacock patterns to Mughal florals

“If you only buy one thing…” says Muzaffar Andrabi from across the polished-concrete and glass showroom. I consider the luxurious excess of undyed, 100 per cent pure cashmere draped around me and laugh at our host’s lapse into stereotype.

Kashmiri shopkeepers have a pushy reputation around South Asia, but Andrabi is no typical merchant. The founder of Kashmir Caravans – a pioneering local touring company – Andrabi is our personal guide around this ancient, snow-capped land of carved houseboats and fabled Mughal gardens. Two days prior, when he picked us up from the airport, I noticed a smart sign hanging above a trio of high, wide windows. “What’s Andraab?” I asked.

“Aside from my guiding company, we have a small cashmere enterprise,” Andrabi admitted as if it were a secret he was intent on hiding. He remained elusive, only adding, “Our family would like to contribute to the revival of Kashmir through crafts.”

My travelling companion and I insist on a visit to the showroom. Upon entering, pride replaces reticence as our host waxes loquacious about each stunning swath.

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“We make small changes to traditional Kashmiri styles,” Andrabi says as he unfurls metre upon metre of breathtakingly intricate embroidery, each piece a wearable work of art and petal-soft to the touch.

“Look at the minute patterns,” he encourages us. “Each individual leaf is sewn by a 75-year-old specialist using super-fine silk thread.” I lean in to get a closer look; I decide he’s not exaggerating with the claim that it took “thousands of stitches for this small patch alone”.

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Florals, zigzags, peacocks and candy stripes (second picture) – within minutes, the room becomes a veritable kaleidoscope. My companion takes up a buttercup-hued scarf finished with nandi bulls (£215) atop a rainbow of hand-embroidered roses, then swaps these for the Mughal floral pattern in teal-silk thread on the lightest grey cashmere, finally rounding up a pile for purchase.

Meanwhile, I gravitate to the brand’s newest collection of 100 per cent natural-dye shawls (£158), the yellow made from marigolds, the red from pomegranate skins. I admire the intricate workmanship, but finally forsake the pieces in favour of that metre-long, unembellished travel-blanket-cum-über-wrap (£985). It might just be the chicest item I’ve ever worn.

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