Cashmere reminds me of sophistication. It is among the most graceful and elite of all wool fibers. But like pearls and caviar, cashmere too had humble beginnings. Nobody could have imagined that the hair from the Mongolian goat’s underbelly would one day be in such high demand. The demand has been high for a long time because it is so good, and also because of the high processing costs.
The Cost of Cashmere Sweater Can Vary
Walk into a store, and you will find cashmere sweaters that cost $1,000 or even more. The prices can spin your head. But you will also get them for $59.99. Obviously the quality is much poorer here. It would not be 100% natural cashmere. Something else would be blend with cashmere to keep the price down, and as a result, it won’t be as soft or comfortable as cashmere. The quality is significantly inferior. In fact, very little of it will actually be cashmere.
It takes about 4 years for a Mongolian goat to naturally grow enough hair to make just a single cashmere sweater. So it is very difficult to find 100% cashmere without manual harvesting. The hair must also be washed and sorted by hand. Only the finest and longest hair from either the neck or belly is taken. After harvesting the top quality cashmere fiber, it has to be spun into yarn before the garments are created.
Beware of the Chinese Products
In recent years, China has come to dominate the cashmere market. In fact, about 60% of the world produce now come from China, but it’s just the raw material. The wool still has to be made into sweaters, coats, jackets, ponchos, and the other pieces of clothing. There is manufacturing in China too, which has developed over the last three decades, and while some of it is good, but overall, European manufacturers are way better. The capabilities of China are still poorer than the high-end luxury mills of the west.
Italy and Scotland are the traditional centers of excellence with a long history of spinning and knitting quality cashmere. The products from these countries will always be better than those made in China.
Difference Between Quality and Inferior Cashmere
A lot of things go into making a quality product. There is fiber quality, measured in thickness and length. It is 2.5 inches for luxury cashmere, while for cheap items, it is just 0.8 inch. The fiber’s diameter must also be less than 19 microns. For finer cashmere, it is even less at 14 microns. With human hair, the diameter is 75 microns. In China, they often use shorter or scratchy, and also thicker hair to keep the price down.
Chinese manufacturers also blend cashmere with synthetic fibers or silk, so the end product is never 100% cashmere. When you buy a blend, you compromise on the very things that make cashmere so great – its weight, softness, and insulating properties. Cashmere is eight times warmer than the wool of sheep, but it is still significantly lighter. So you should always invest in 100% cashmere. It is always worth it.