Cashmere, like many other fine materials, is easily taken for granted in today’s globalized and commoditized world. It really is generally no problem finding and it is more affordable given that it’s been in the past. However, this exceptional fiber will probably be worth a deeper dive, because very much important info is obscured by the clothing industry that you’ll require to learn to be the best consumer. If you wish to appreciate one of the best possible fabrics on the globe, it pays to learn a bit about it. The easy accessibility of cashmere today belies the actual fact that it’s still one of the rarest, most prized fabrics in the world.
Cashmere is the overall term for fibers and fabrics that are made of the fine under hair of the cashmere goat. That’s right, a goat. Each animal grows a double fleece which is comprised of thick, coarse guard hairs that overlay an excellent down insulating layer of hair. This unexpected source, typically, produces only 150 grams (0.33 pounds) of cashmere fibers annually per goat. It requires 2-3 animals to make a sweater, for example, and 5-6 animals to make a jacket. The annual world production of cashmere hair is estimated to be 15,000 to 20,000 tons, as soon as the hairs are processed to get rid of everything but the under hair, the ultimate yield is estimated to be always a mere 6,500 tons.
According to the definition established by the government in the Wool Products Labeling Act, not all fibers from the cashmere goat are believed to cashmere. They need to be:
- Originating from the fine, dehaired undercoat fibers of the cashmere goat
- The average diameter of the fiber is less than 19 microns
- Cannot contain more than 3% by weight of cashmere fibers exceeding 30 microns
A micron is added up to one-millionth of a meter. For reference, a human hair is about 100 microns wide, so cashmere fibers are exceptionally fine.
History of Cashmere
Cashmere is a luxury product for nearly most of history. In recent times, the word “luxury” has evolved to mean many various things, nevertheless for most of the history of the production of cashmere, it has meant that the material was only accessible to society’s rich and elite. “Cashmere” is the anglicized version of Kashmir, the spot in Asia from which cashmere production originated. The region now falls in parts of India, China, and Pakistan.
Though cashmere production’s been around for thousands of years, the modern formation of the industry is traditionally thought to have started in the 15th century in Kashmir. Cashmere was woven into shawls that featured a paisley pattern, which particular garment dominated the industry before industrial age. Imported genuine cashmere shawls were rare in Europe, and because of the popular, Europeans used other fibers to create imitation shawls for centuries. With the 1800s, Europeans had imported cashmere goats from Asia and were spinning cashmere yarns on the continent. The cashmere industry particularly flourished in Scotland, and the country continues to be a center of European cashmere production even today. Cashmere was introduced to the United States on a large scale for the first time in 1947.
Cashmere remained a pricey, rare commodity until laws liberalizing international trade passed in China in the late 1970’s. The once-restricted industry was now a lot more available to development, and demand helped push cashmere further in to the mainstream in the next decades. Cashmere cultivation expanded rapidly, ushering within an era of mass production that caused prices to steadily fall. Only serious environmental degradation of the goat grazing lands has forced the price tag on cashmere back up lately as fewer herders will get food for his or her animals.
Today, cashmere is considered an attainable, disposable luxury. Big box retailers order hundreds of thousands of bits of cashmere every year, and charges for a sweater are often as low as $50 to $100. Prices that low and volumes that high beg some questions: Is it possible to still find real, high-quality cashmere that will probably be worth investing in? Is cashmere sustainable in the long term?