LUMBERTON — At 31 years old, Mahvash Masood manages a profitable textile business in India from her home in Lumberton.
Masood began her textile business, Farzeen, in 2010 in her home state of Kashmir, India. From 7,000 miles and nine time zones away, Masood manages a team of craftsmen who spin wool into yarn, weave base fabrics and embroider her intricate, handmade designs onto Pashmina shawls and textiles.
Although Masood left India for Lumberton a year ago with her husband, Dr. Bilal Muzaffar, who works as a rheumatologist at Southeastern Arthritis Clinic in Lumberton, she knew she couldn’t stop doing what she loved most.
“I can’t live without doing this kind of work,” Masood said. “I do the design here and I send it there. In the initial days, it was difficult. But I was able to go home a few months back and train some more people. Now, my team understands the quality of the work we are trying to produce.”
Masood’s fabrics are sold mostly in India in her mother’s store, also called Farzeen. She also takes some corporate orders.
The process to create a Farzeen original begins with spinning wool into yarn and creating a base fabric, which Masood said takes about a week to complete.
Next, the fabric is dyed and the chaap, or an ink print of an embroidery design, is printed onto the fabric to give the embroiderers a guide to stitch over. The chaap is based on hand-drawn embroidery patterns created by Masood.
Masood said her company has incorporated new motifs and themes that aren’t traditionally seen in Indian Pashminas and fabrics.
“You have a set of motifs that you use over time. Normally it’s flower or paisley patterns. For hundreds of years, we’ve been using these motifs,” Masood said. “We may put it on a new fabric, but we haven’t increased the database. Our designs are more modern while maintaining the originality of Kashmir.”
One of Masood’s recent collections combines paisley patterns with intricately drawn golfers, golf carts and golf balls. The collection, which included ties, golfing towels and scarves, was ordered by a business to be given as participation gifts at a golf tournament.
In order to preserve the originality of Indian fabrics, Masood uses colors that are traditionally used in Indian fabrics and Pashminas. Masood said no other Indian textile business had explored using patterns involving sports or her favorite of her designs, Kashmiri birds.
“As a child, I grew up looking at birds,” she said. “Eventually when I grew up, I never saw them anymore. So using them in my products is a way to document them.”
After being embroidered, the fabrics are washed and ready to be sold. Her products are not mass-produced because the intricate designs take months to complete.
Pashmina shawls are a status symbol in Kashmir and in India, making the textile industry one of the biggest industries in the region. Masood said the textile craft is a dying art because many artisans are exploited by businessmen who want to pay them less to do more.
“Newer generations don’t want to go into it,” she said. “Having a skill, it is something very good. People don’t take pride in it like they used to. In the olden days, women and girls were taught embroidery and it was considered a special quality.”