Cashmere is a type of wool that is incredibly soft, thin, and versatile. It is considered to be a luxury material, and taken care of can be a heritage piece you pass down from generation to generation. Cashmere pieces that are transcendental can be worn season after season, year after year, and continue to be a style staple that elevates your wardrobe for the rest of your life.
Cashmere is a really soft wool, but it’s heritage, production, and future differ massively from more traditional wool. There’s a reason why the fashion industry calls it the “golden fleece.” It can take anywhere from two to six goats to produce enough cashmere to make just one sweater.
What is Cashmere?
Cashmere comes from Capra Hircus goats. These goats are natively found in the Tibetan Highlands, the Himalayas, and Mongolia, though in modern times have found new homes in Scotland and China.
During the winter these goats produce a very fine, very weather-resistant coating that is then removed by combing or shearing in the spring. This undercoat is shed naturally as well, which means that the wellbeing of these beloved goats cares for every step of the way.
Where Does Cashmere Come From?
Cashmere goats were native to the mountainous regions in Asia, but they can now be found in places like China and Scotland. They need arid, mountainous regions to thrive. Rearing cashmere is also a family legacy, and how well cared for and bred the Capra Hircus goats are will result in varying grades of cashmere. That is why Scottish and Mongolian cashmere is seen as so superior because these herds are cared for and raised by local farmers who respect the animal, the environment, and their heritage.
How Sustainable is Cashmere?
Cashmere can be incredibly sustainable. It is gathered from goats without hurting them, it lasts a lifetime, and of course, degrades naturally or recycles easily, making it a great material for a closed-loop economy. The issues you might hear about cashmere come from certain herds. In China, for example, herds are so large that they are actually causing desertification in their region. They cannot be cared for properly, either, making their coats less valuable.
Our cashmere, however, comes not just from a region with a rich history in Capra Hircus goats, and our herds have been raised by families that have been working with us for over 20 years. Luxury brands typically source their cashmere from Mongolia as well, as the heritage and cashmere produced by these goats are so superior.
Once cashmere is selected and shipped to a manufacturing floor, its level of sustainability depends on how the workers are treated and paid. Our cashmere is processed in factories owned and operated by us, with machines that were designed and built in Italy and Switzerland. Workers are paid fairly and work in a safe, clean, and friendly environment.
To truly be sustainable, your cashmere must support communities at every level of the production chain, must be created with little damage to the environment, and must last. The fashion industry has gone on unchecked far too long, and it is time for every step of the design process to be viewed and altered accordingly.
Is All Cashmere the Same?
Cashmere is graded differently, which is why you can get some cheap cashmere items that don’t feel quite the same way as luxury cashmere is. The reason why there are varying grades of cashmere is simply that some brands care more about their bottom line than they do about a quality product.
Grade A cashmere is the highest quality of cashmere. It is what luxury brands and we here at State Cashmere use for our products. It is the longest and thinnest of the hair collected from the cashmere goats. Grade A cashmere is 14 to 15.5 microns thick, and between 3.4 to 3.6 cm long. To put how small this into perspective, the thickness of an average person’s hair is 50mm, and the human eye cannot see things smaller than 40 microns.
Slightly less soft than Grade A is Grade B, which has an average thickness of 19 microns. Still too small for the human eye to see, but can be more coarse and shorter than the luxury fibers top brands source for their product.
Grade C fibers are twice as thick as grade A, and you will notice the decrease in quality if you have a Grade A knitted sample and a Grade B knitted sample next to each other.
The Problem with Grading
We at State Cashmere use only Grade A cashmere, and that is our promise. The issue with grading cashmere is that many brands don’t state what grade their cashmere is on their products. Unless you are intimate with cashmere, you could end up purchasing a coarser Grade C without realizing it. Sometimes the price will be right, but in others, you could massively overpay without realizing it.
The History of Cashmere
There are stories of Marco Polo finding cave drawing evidence of ancient mankind raising goats in the mountains, and it isn’t a far stretch to assume it was the Capra Hicus goat that they were using to make clothing.
This ancient, luxurious textile has been a part of the human enterprise for thousands of years. Before western explorers came and learned of it, it was known as Kashmir, which is a region that was once a part of the Silk Road. This region in India was one of the first to properly process the undercoat wool of these goats, though it's market share has decreased significantly.
Today the goats are domesticated and cared for in mountainous regions around the world. They are also more commonly referred to as “Pashmina” goats or “Pashmina” cashmere if you were ever confused about the different name.
Tips When Buying Cashmere
Understanding where your cashmere has come from and how it is sorted into different grades is essential when buying cashmere.
Beware of Low Market Cashmere
Low market cashmere exploits local environments and underpays its workers. It is an ethical and ecological nightmare. Herds have doubled in size in China, for example, and with over 40 million goats grazing arid environments, and the ongoing issues of climate change, desertification occurs. This is an issue in many regions, including Mongolia, and it is only through sustainable herding and production can the issue be lessened.
Moreover, you won’t be receiving the same quality product. From poorly constructed seams to coarse Grade C fiber, low market cashmere is not built to last, making it a poor investment piece.
In some places, you might even be lied to. Many travelers to the Kashmir area, for example, get conned into buying Pashmina cashmere for very cheap prices. This Pashmina is, in most cases, made of viscose.
Don’t Overpay for Brand Names
Quality cashmere products cost between $100 to $300. Anything more and you are going to be paying for the brand name more than the quality of the fiber. If you want a timeless staple, then it is best to find a sustainable, ethical, quality cashmere brand like State Cashmere to invest in.
Cashmere can be blended with other materials. In all cases, the blend will reduce the quality of the cashmere, and make it less soft. At State Cashmere, we only offer 100% cashmere products, but to help you understand cashmere blends and what their value is, here are three of the top blends you will come across:
A cashmere and wool blend is done predominately just to have cashmere on the label and boost prices. In most cases, the cashmere percentage is very low.
Cashmere and silk might sound like a superior textile, but it isn’t. It is, however, a luxury piece that is soft and warm. It also tends to be less fuzzy, and perfect if you want a sleeker piece.
Usually used for workout clothes. The cashmere can help keep you warm if you are running or exercising outdoors in winter.
Why Cashmere is Such a Great Investment
Cashmere will often be an investment for most because you will need to save up in order to splurge on a Grade A 100% cashmere staple for your wardrobe. This is always a great investment choice.
Cashmere can be mended like new by re-weavers. Cared for well this way, they can last lifetimes. The material is so soft and cozy you, your children, and even their children can enjoy a single sweater. That is what heritage quality means; the ability to make the cashmere garment an heirloom.
Cashmere is the undercoat of a goat that endures -40C weather in the mountains. It is the perfect choice to help you keep warm, especially because it helps wick moisture away from the body. You will stay dry and warm all winter long.
Cashmere will only get softer the more you wear it, making it one of the coziest, most comfortable choices out there.
Able to Be Mended Seamlessly
Given to a professional a hole in a 100% cashmere sweater can be mended seamlessly. This ability to be given new life makes it infinitely more durable and long-lasting than many other fabrics and clothes you will find in your closet.
How to Care for Your Cashmere
Caring for your cashmere is, of course, essential to make full use of the benefits and to get the most value out of your investment. You should never buy an item that you don’t intend to wear thirty times or more. You will want to hand wash your cashmere, then reshape and dry between towels. To be safe, you should store your cashmere in moth-resistant bags.
How to Style Cashmere
Cashmere is best when it is a timeless staple that can be worn with everything in your closet. Choose a great neutral and find new ways to wear it. A scarf can be used over a coat or as a poncho, a sweater can be worn over a dress as much as it can be paired with pants.