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Kashmiri Artisans Breathe New Life Into Traditional Pherans

Each stitch, a labour of love, weaves stories of cultural richness and diversity.
12:00 AM May 07, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
kashmiri artisans breathe new life into traditional pherans

BY Nazakat Aslam and Aalima Qayoom


In a region renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship, Kashmiri artisans are taking the iconic pheran to new heights. This traditional garment, once a staple in every Kashmiri's wardrobe, is undergoing a renaissance, blending age-old techniques with contemporary designs and fresh perspectives.


The craftsmanship of pheran-making in Kashmir stands as an art steeped in history. It transcends seasons, with specialised pherans crafted for summer, winter, and specific occasions. Each stitch, a labour of love, weaves stories of cultural richness and diversity.


However, in recent years, a new generation of artisans has embraced innovation, giving the pheran a modern makeover. From vibrant colours and intricate embroidery to sleek silhouettes and unconventional fabrics, these creative minds are pushing boundaries while honouring tradition.
"The pheran is more than just a garment; it's a canvas for our artistic expression," says Ishfaq Ahmad, a young designer from Srinagar.


"By infusing it with contemporary elements, we're not only preserving our heritage but also ensuring its relevance for generations to come."
As these artisans continue to push the boundaries of creativity, the person's legacy endures, serving as a symbol of Kashmir's resilience and adaptability in an ever-changing world.


Embedded in the very fabric of Kashmiri culture, the Pheran transcends its sartorial role and steps into politics. Numerous politicians proudly display images donned in Pherans, intertwining political identity with cultural heritage.


K Salama, a distinguished establishment located at Polo View, is helmed by Amjad Gulzar. With a legacy dating back to 1842, it has been synonymous with bespoke tailoring, initially catering to Western patrons and now extending its expertise to a diverse clientele, including locals, Indians and Western enthusiasts.


Amjad Gulzar, the torchbearer of this legacy, shares a rich history of adapting to evolving preferences in tailoring. From its origins, the Pheran has undergone a fascinating transformation. Initially crafted on plain, heavy fabrics like wool, the contemporary era witnesses a kaleidoscope of designs, specifically tailored for men and women. Styles vary from plain to designer, featuring Herringbone, Check, and Wrangler designs, each reflecting meticulous craftsmanship.

The artistry extends to traditional Kashmiri techniques such as Tilla work, Ari work, Sozni work and intricate patching, adding a unique touch to the garments. Some men seek personalized details on their Pherans, desiring intricate work on collars and necklines, infusing a subtle touch of Kashmiri craftsmanship. The prime fabrics including woollen, tweed, pashmina, and cashmere showcase a commitment to excellence and diversity.

When it comes to maintaining the exquisite Kashmiri Pheran, he stated, “Generally, entrusting it to a dry cleaner is advised, opting for a meticulous dry wash. Yet, washing it at home is plausible, with utmost attention to the delicate nature of wool, circumstances matter. Post-washing, the crux lies in heavy ironing, a vital ritual that restores the fabric to its normal position and imparts a pristine finish. Indeed, ironing assumes a pivotal role in revitalizing these substantial Pherans.”

Nowadays the focus is on providing modern, Indo-Western designs while retaining the essence of Kashmiri craftsmanship. The unisex Pherans, catering to both men and women with nuanced size differences, exemplify the shop's adaptability and commitment to inclusivity.

This legacy of excellence traces back to Amjad Gulzar's great-grandfather, who initiated the shop's journey in the early 1840s. The satisfaction of clients, past and present, serves as the driving force, fueling the shop's resilience and dedication to maintaining unparalleled quality.

As you step into K Salama, you enter not just a tailoring establishment but a living testament to Kashmir's cultural evolution, where tradition seamlessly intertwines with contemporary flair.
Bashir Ahmed, the owner of a shop specializing in Tilla work Pherans, situated in Khanqah,

Srinagar, shared a captivating narrative. According to him, the trends in pherans have undergone a significant transformation over time, reflecting the evolving tastes and preferences of the community.
"In the past, women favored delicately crafted handmade Tilla work for their pherans. However, the dynamics have shifted, and today, the trend leans towards opulent machine-made Tilla designs," he said.

Additionally, he stated that the evolution extends to the material choice, as velvet pherans were once exclusively reserved for brides, but now, women across various age groups embrace this luxurious fabric, adding a touch of sophistication to their attire.

Abdul Hamid Bhat, a traditional tailor, has dedicated five decades to crafting Pherans. While sharing his experience he stated that in the past, comfort took precedence over style, but nowadays, style holds the utmost priority.

“In the old days, folks favored straightforward Pherans and added an inner lining for warmth. Nowadays, the scene has totally shifted, many customers now lean towards sleek, snug designs with stylish piping on the sleeves, collars and hems of their pherans. It's a whole new trend,” he said.

Aijaz Ahmed, the owner of the cloth shop “Shoob”, noted that in the past, wool fabric held a preference for crafting pherans. However, in contemporary times  people are opting for a variety of fabrics beyond wool for their pherans.

"There is a shift in consumer preferences towards ready-made pherans, citing their affordability compared to customizable options. Additionally there is a trend among males opting for jackets over pheran fabrics because they are generally less expensive, " he said.

Nazakat Shawl factory, owned by Ghulam Ahmed Wani, nestled in the Dalgate area of Srinagar, has been a steadfast purveyor of Pherans for an extensive period.
A worker at Nazakat Shawl Factory orrated that they actively stay updated about the trending Pheran designs, ensuring they consistently offer fashionable and sought-after choices.
They diligently refresh their collection every 10 days, staying abreast of the latest trends. This ensures their customers consistently receive new and stylish Pherans, keeping their fashion offerings up-to-date.

“This year witnessed a substantial surge in the popularity of Sozni Pherans, with customers showing considerable interest and making numerous purchases. Our diverse collection caters to various preferences, offering a wide range of pherans, from affordable options to more expensive ones,” she added.
Mayur Sharma, the proprietor of Roshini Designer Studio, has been crafting Pherans for an extensive period. With a presence in Rajbagh spanning 35 years, the boutique, initiated by his mother, has witnessed a continuous evolution in Pheran designs.

According to Mayur the landscape of Pheran designs is evolving over time. He stated that there is a continual shift in customer preferences for these traditional outfits, showcasing the dynamic nature of fashion and the diverse choices embraced by his clientele.
“Over time, fashion trends in pherans have changed a lot. While loose styles were favored in the past, contemporary preference lean towards fitted designs adorned with intricate patterns on collars and sleeves,” he said.

While discussing the embellishments on the traditional Kashmiri Pheran, he mentioned that a decade or so ago, women preferred authentic handcrafted tilla work for their garments. However, nowadays, the trend has shifted and a significant number of them opt for machine-made tilla work instead.

We must recognise that pheran is more than merely a style of clothing, it's our heritage. In the era of increasing modernity, it is becoming increasingly crucial for us as a society to protect this special asset of ours. Pheran not only renders our culture but also serves as the identity of the Kashmiri community.

In an increasingly fast-paced society, Pheran's continuing presence goes beyond nostalgia. It symbolizes people's commitment towards maintaining the essence of their culture. Beyond being aesthetically pleasing, it captures the vitality of the Kashmiri people and demonstrates how resilient they have been throughout history.

All it takes to truly appreciate the significance of Pheran is for us to wear it with pride and a sense of duty. As we live in a world that is more inclined towards contemporary innovations, Pheran fosters a sense of unity, connecting generations from past and future.

BY Nazakat Aslam and Aalima Qayoom