The first thing almost every female visitor to India wants to know (and I ought to know as I’m always being asked) is where to track down authentic pashminas. There’s no need to go so far. Some of the best can be found right here in the UK, more precisely in London, at Few and Far in Brompton Road and the Livingstone Studio in Hampstead.
These are two cult shops, each of which is guided by a very strong “eye”. Each has managed to home in on what for my money are simply the best weavers of modern pashminas in India today – Kashmir Loom. This was founded by Jenny Housego, erstwhile wife of one of the FT’s former India correspondents, David Housego; Jenny has got together with a Kashmiri partner and they oversee the weaving and finishing of some of the softest, most beautifully designed pashminas around.
They work with craftsmen who used to weave shatooshes (even finer but from an antelope that is now endangered) when they were still legal. These days the looms are laden only with the finest lena wool taken from the changra goat which is bred at the very high altitudes necessary to create such fine inner coats.
What makes the pashminas so desirable is the softness of the wool, the fine way they are woven and treated, and the wonderfully sophisticated patterns. They make them in that pale dun colour and the classic, subtle bird’s-eye weave which is the staple of every chic Indian’s woman wardrobe; but they also bring them out in very subtle checks. They get the weavers to intersperse the thread with fine, fine gold. To touch them is to want one.
And on top of all that, the prices seem to me, given the workmanship and how far they’ve come, to be very reasonable. At Few and Far prices start at about £245 and go up to about £1,000 for those that have some gold thread in them, while those at Livingstone Studio range from £300 to £600. And if you do get to Delhi, pay them a visit.