∞ The Slow Process of Creating Ladakh's Finest Pashmina ∞
Silk Road Spaceship's Latest Collaboration is with LENA, a Ladakh-based, Women-owned Pashmina Company
By Stanzin Dawa, SRS's Ladakh Sourcing Partner
When Laura Kozitis talked with me about introducing products from Ladakh on her new Silk Road Spaceship online store, I jumped at the opportunity to give back to my community.
”The most satisfying part of this journey?
Thinking of the women being able to be financially independent because of the skills that were once not valued. Thinking about them spinning and weaving in sunrooms, drinking butter tea, laughing, and sharing stories." —Stanzin Dawa
Ladakh produces a variety of goods; however, the most exquisite is Pashmina. Ladakh is home to the finest wool made on the globe. In the highest altitudes of eastern Ladakh, the nomads of Changthang tend their herds of goats in the harsh Himalayan climate, where the temperatures can drop to as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit. It is only under these conditions, that Capra-Hicus goats produce this exquisite wool fiber, pashmina, known worldwide for its durability and unimaginable softness.
The quality of this wool pashmina, combined with its rarity, make it extremely hard to find for buyers. Ladakh has long produced Pashmina as a raw material but, until recently, lacked enterprises to offer finished products. Recent changes now allow Ladakh to offer some of the finest finished pashmina products to very select markets all over the world.
LENA, a company co-founded by two Ladakhi women, is a modern business whose founders have worked to develop the finest products using sustainable methods.
LENA’s founders, Sonam and Minglak, value all the aspects of sustainability - helping local economy by employing local artisans, especially women; reviving and acknowledging traditional methods of spinning, weaving, and using all natural products to dye their fibers. This long time favorite company of mine is creating breathtaking shawls and scarves using dyes extracted from herbs and flowers found in the mountains and gardens of Ladakh. The rich colors of marigold, rhubarb, indigo, lac, and madder are stunning to behold, evoking the beauty of our landscape.
LENA is a slow-textile brand; from start to finish, each step is done manually by a skilled woman artisan.
The process explained by LENA:
“By the means of hand carved wooden ‘whorl-less spindles’ the fibres are handspun into pashmina yarns by our women artisans. Hand spinning pashmina is a dwindling art, practiced by only a few artisans today. Nearly half of these single-piled spun yarns, undergo hand twisting into double piles for our warps. The skeins are then botanically dyed with myriad plant sources and hand woven and hand knitted into scarves, beanies and so on, which are then given a final touch of manual-finishing that requires the meticulous skill of fixing each and every knot and string.”
I was thrilled to be able to offer this very limited run of scarves which I designed with the co-founders of Lena and which will only be offered through Silk Road Spaceship for a very limited time.
We hope these scarves and shawls will give you the warmth we all need in these difficult times. ∞
(December 21, 2020)