Andraab

Andraab

The North Indian region of Kashmir is a place that is quite seriously known as 'Heaven on Earth'. (With mountains like that, you can kind of forgive them.) It's also a place where, according to Brooklyn-based Yasmin Andrabi, you can't help feeling thrown back in time.

“Everything slows down,” says Yasmin from her brownstone Remsen Street apartment. “You have no choice but to relax.”

Vendors of rare, woven cashmere wares, Andraab was founded by Kashmiri brothers Muzaffar, Mubashir and Muzakir who are now based in New York City.

“It was their love of Kashmir and its indigenous arts that fostered the start of Andraab,” explains Yasmin.

Indeed, Andraab is one of the few remaining companies to produce its cashmere scarves, shawls, bedspreads and wall hangings in their native setting and Yasmin and her husband Muzaffar spend a large part of every year right there in (ahem) Heaven on Earth.

Weaving in Kashmir is a family tradition, with skills passed down from father to son. After five tumultuous centuries, these methods have barely changed – men do the weaving and embroidery, and women do the cleaning and spinning. But as all Andraab pieces are made by hand from start to finish by a team of more than fifty weavers, it's a pretty involved process.

Once Yasmin and the Andraab brothers have finished a design, cashmere goat wool is procured from a roaming goat herd, then cleaned and combed. It's then spun on a 'charkha' spinning wheel and cashmere thread is put on the handloom to create tension for the horizontal 'warp' thread, as the other thread gets wound around a pin to create the lengthways 'weft' thread. (Legitimate weaving lexicon, apparently.) Warp and weft are woven together to create the cloth for the final piece.

Once woven, the shawl is passed on to an embroiderer for the intricate detailing that typify the Andraab designs, and then given a final clean.  The whole thing can take up to six months. True story.

Outside of Kashmir, Andraab is a relatively undiscovered phenomenon. While there are a handful of retail stores open in India, in the States it's all very boutique, with business consisting mostly of private appointments. But once discovered, never forgotten. Apparently even Madonna owns an Andraab.

The trick, explains Yasmin, is to marry the traditional embroidery of Kashmir with a Western sensibility.

We think they've nailed it.