CASHMERE TO POLYESTER
A journey into the dark world of fashion (Part 2)
By now, you will know from my first blog “A Brand is born” – that at our Indo-Swiss wedding in India, we gave to all the Swiss guests beautiful cashmere scarves. Which they loved.
After our memorable wedding, I started settling in my new home, Zurich Switzerland. It was very different to India and Singapore (where I lived before). It was quite cold, which I loved (almost no Swiss person can understand why?). I missed Indian food but soon fell in love with the Swiss fondue, and yes, the cows, they were only seen in summer in the mountains. They looked so beautiful, that I would almost want to take a selfie with them (something my Indian friends don’t understand at all). Meanwhile, the demand for our scarves kept growing amongst family and friends. These cashmere scarves were loved not only by the women in the family, but also by the men. What’s more, people implicitly trusted our taste. Their simple request would be: “Please bring me back a red scarf” allowing us to freely choose the design and pattern.
Since, not all Indian styles work with western outfits, we would often scrutinise the scarves’ designs from the recipient’s point of view. For my friends, I would choose bright reds, greens and yellows with muted self-designs to create a balanced look. While my mother in law and her friends received pale pinks, beiges and blues. My father in law typically stayed with safe greys and blacks. Given the steady demand from family and friends, we thought of exploring the business potential of selling these scarves in Switzerland. Armed with a list of the 10 best local scarf manufacturers we headed to Punjab (my home state) in India.
As you can probably tell by now, I was very proud of these cashmere scarves. They were not only loved and worn abroad by my Swiss family and friends but also worn and loved locally by my Indian family and friends. They were a symbol of the best in design and craftsmanship that my country had to offer. With a few samples in hand, we went to the first manufacturer and asked him if his factory could produce these kinds of scarves for us?
The manufacturer told us: “Of course we can import them for you”. We thought we heard something wrong. So, asked again and he said: “Yes, we can import them for you. They are made in China.” I asked the third time: “This wool scarf is made in China?” And he answered the third time “Yes, this POLYESTER (not wool) scarf is made and imported from China. We can import them for you. How many do you want?”. I was stupefied! My family and country’s pride was at stake. I was shocked and angry. I quickly concluded this man had no clue what he was talking about.
We continued on to the next manufacturer and the next. After passing our scarf samples through many expert hands and burn tests, and hearing the same truth from the fifth manufacturer in a row we finally stopped and started asking a series of different questions. Questions that eventually led us into the dark world of fashion. Questions that started with: WHAT IS POLYESTER?
… to be continued
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