When one thinks of cashmere the first word that springs to mind is luxury. Cashmere has built a loyal following over centuries. It has become one of the fabrics that services the higher end of the style and clothing markets and is available to discerning consumers in a variety of forms, including cashmere wrap, pullover, and scarf. It has found favor with both men and women who value the finer things in life.
The name Cashmere is derived from the location Kashmir. This region of the northwestern Indian subcontinent is bounded by India, China (and Tibet), Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Cashmere was first produced in this region in the 13th century. Records show that it was used from the 1500s to the 1800s by royalty from Iran and India in religious ceremonies and as gifts for those in political favor.
Today Cashmere is not only valued for its sheer beauty. It is soft and almost silky to the touch – and is valued for its incredible insulating properties. this is truly one of the most iconic fabrics in the world. But Cashmere is also valued for the effort that goes into its production. It is a labor-intensive process – which is partly responsible for its high price. In colder climates, goats grow a soft fleecy underlayer beneath their coats. Come the warmer months this coat is shed – and the fibers in the underlayer are combed out by hand. These fibers are then spun and dyed in a variety of colors.
So, the sometimes astronomical prices of item like Cashmere wrap is due to two factors, the complexity of the manufacturing process and the rarity of the raw material. Just how rare is this material? Considering that each goat only produces around 200gms (that is not enough for a single pullover) and that the combined coats of between two and three goats that are shed each year are required for the manufacture of a single item, it is no wonder that this is a material that commands such high prices.
Traditionally the best Cashmere is produced in countries such as China and Mongolia. Afghanistan and Iran are also leading producers of what is today known as genuine Cashmere. However, the raw Cashmere fibers can be sourced from almost any type of goat, as long as they have coats that are suitable and the climate favors the shedding of those coats when the weather warms.
There are a variety of different grades of Cashmere that are used to make everything from Cashmere wrap, and scarf to pullover, sweater, jacket and even jogging pants. The grades are dependent on a variety of factors, for instance, the goatherds that roam the high reaches of the Himalayas are renowned for producing the highest quality of Cashmere. The Cashmere gathered from these goats is noteworthy due to its long, smooth, and straight fibers. The thickness of the fibers from these goats also contributes to that wonderful piling that leads to luxurious fluffiness that is so prized by those who value quality, style, and exclusivity.
Those who are in the market for Cashmere products should be aware that the quality (and price) of the garment will vary wildly according to the amount of Cashmere that is used in the manufacturing process. Cashmere is often mixed with silk to produce fabrics that retain that incredible feel – but will also not be subject to what is called in the garment trade ‘pilling’. This is the formation of those ‘bobbles’ on the fabric that can ruin its appeal. It is rare that pure Cashmere is used for garments since it is subject to piling. If you are shopping for Cashmere make sure that you are dealing with a reputable supplier like Quinn (quinnshop.com). Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that what is claimed by manufacturers may not be in fact the case – many garments were shown to have far lower percentages of real Cashmere than the manufacturers claim on their labels.
When evaluating a Cashmere wrap take a close look at the tightness of the weave. I tightly woven garment is usually the result of using two-ply yarn. This is where two pieces of yarn are combined for the manufacture of the weave. This results in a superior product that is not only softer and more luxurious but also much harder to wear than products of inferior quality. Also, take a look at the brightness of the colors – brighter colors are usually an indication of quality.
Cashmere is close to the perfect fabric for style-conscious consumers. It is incredibly lightweight and any Cashmere clothing item will supply superior warmth no matter the climate. Its softness is legendary. It is the perfect combination of utility and exclusive high street style. It is expensive – but what price are consumers willing to pay for a fabric that has built a reputation for absolute luxury over centuries – and was once exclusively available to royalty?