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Kerry Taylor on Luxurious Kashmir Shawls for The Zay Initiative Fashion Series

Written by: Nikoleta Morales

Kerry Taylor, a British consultant to leading auction houses, who specializes in vintage fashion, spoke to The Zay initiative about the history of Kashmir shawls. She outlined the differences and similarities, educating the viewers on what used to be once a “rich and noble” textile. The Kashmir was an expensive, fine quality thread because it was made in the Himalayan mountains and it usually took about 18 months to weave the thread by a dozen people.

The Kashmir shawl was made from a special wool found in the Himalayan goats and it was the finest of threads. The shawl was warm, soft and beautiful with a uniquely made thread. The greatest period for the shawl was during the 17th and 18th centuries. Among the first to wear the beautiful Kashmir shawl were men who wore it around their waste. Eventually, more women began wearing it around their shoulders and later on as a long robe or dress.

“Men became boring in the 19th century, but in the 17th and 18th centuries, they were peacocks,” said Taylor when referring to how men’s fashion change over the years.

In reference to women, it was every girl’s dream in the 19th century to own Kashmir but, only the wealthy could afford it. Taylor then went on to talk about the weave of the shawl and the influence of Europe in the way the thread was designed and made in India. The difference in colors - from a white, creamy base in the 17th century to a more colorful design in the 19th century was also discussed.

“When we got to 1860, the need for a longer shawl was not required anymore. In1870, it was the end of the shawl. Women were falling out of love with the shawl. What was important in 1870 was the curve and hip and not a shawl covering it,” said Taylor.

Dr. Reem El Mutwalli from The Zay Initiative spoke about the use of Kashmir shawl in the Arab world and most specifically about men who wore it, such as kings and noblemen. “We know that the Arab men, kings and wealthy merchants could afford the kashmir shawl,” said Dr. Reem. She said they still wear it today, as well as women. The boteh design is much beloved throughout the region and still commonly found in garments present day.

About Kerry Taylor Auctions:

Kerry Taylor Auctions was established in 2003. Already a leading authority in the field for more than 20 years, Taylor launched her own independent auction house specialising in her passions – fashion and textiles. Kerry Taylor Auctions is the world’s leading auction house specialising in exceptional fashion (both vintage and contemporary), fine antique costume, European, Asian and Islamic textiles. The name is internationally synonymous with excellence, unparalleled expertise and extraordinary, record-breaking sales. The offices are based in Bermondsey, London, close to the White Cube gallery and the London Fashion & Textile Museum.

To contact Kerry Taylor Auctions, visit:

For more on the Zay Initiative, visit:

Photos: @TheZayInitiative


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