Delhi: A Passion for Pashminas

Caveat emptor: Few of the wool scarves sold at Delhi’s bazaars are actually woven from the hairs on the undercoat of the Himalayan pashmina goat. Many suppliers mix the real fibers with silk, angora, or polyester, soften the scarves with chemicals, and try to pass them off as the real thing. So how does one spot the genuine article? Shoppers should ask to see pure pashminas and blends and note how the former feel lighter, almost like chiffon, with a finer weave; they also have short threads at their edges, while the blends’ are longer, twisted, and knotted. The best way to ensure quality, however, is to go to a trusted source. Viya Home (D19 Defence Colony or 369 Mehrauli Gurgaon Rd.; sells shawls in neutral colors and herringbone patterns, all made with Mongolian wool and priced from $160. There are exotic Tibetan pashminas, too, lined in Benares silk; all are sold by appointment. The Carpet Cellar (1 Anand Lok, Khel Gaon Marg; also sells top-quality pashminas (from $100), but more impressive and rare are its antique offerings (from $1,200): heavy jamawar styles—embroidered and intricately patterned with natural motifs—and the lighter kani variety, featuring woven floral designs. The shop also carries ultrafine shahminas, crafted from the first shearing of the baby pashmina and an alternative to the shahtoosh, made from Tibetan antelope hair and banned in 1979 after traders slaughtered entire herds.