For lovers of exclusivity and style, the fact that the traditional Cashmere garments such as jackets, scarves and pullovers (among others) have been supplemented by items such as Cashmere joggers and yoga pants will come as welcome news. The sheer luxury and comfort and the material are legendary. Cashmere garments have become (perhaps always have been) an indispensable part of the wardrobes of those who value sheer quality, rarity, and comfort. Its silky feel and insulating properties make it much sought after
But what is it that makes Cashmere so special? Why is it so expensive? A glimpse back in time and the driving forces of simple economics may hold clues.
The name Cashmere has its origins in a particularly mountainous region on the Northern Indian subcontinent. This is a region that is bordered by Mongolia, China (and Tibet), Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. It is here where the famed goat herds that were first responsible for the production of Cashmere roam. It is still the origin of some of the most coveted Cashmere yarn in the world.
Cashmere has been called the ‘Fabric of Kings. It was used as far back as the 13th century in religious ceremonies and as gifts for those who found favor with kings and emperors in India and China. It solidified its reputation in Europe when Napolean presented his wife Josephine with Pashminas (scarves) woven from Cashmere. It may or may not be true, but it was Josephine who is said to have invented the way to tell the highest quality of Cashmere from products that were inferior or just plain fake. The scarf should be able to be pulled through a ring without effort (do not try this with your Cashmere joggers).
By the 19th century mills in both England and France had begun to process the raw Cashmere that had been imported from China, it was already popular with royalty and the upper class – but it was this new processing method that assured its place as one of the most luxurious materials in the world. Truly the Fabric of Kings (and Queens).
The Cashmere goat herds that roam the upper reaches of the Himalayas are responsible for the raw material that will eventually be spun into the fabric used to make everything from scarves to wraps – and yes, to those fabulous, stylish, and comfortable Cashmere joggers and yoga pants that are the latest iterations of clothing made from this wonderful fabric.
The soft fleecy underlayer of the goat’s coat is responsible for the fibers that are used to spin Cashmere. During the extremely cold winter months that are a feature of the high altitudes, the goats grow out their coats. The colder the winter, the more luxurious that coat. Himalayan goatherds must be among the only people on Earth who pray for cold winters where the temperature falls to around -40 degrees Celsius. This protection from the weather is shed once the warmer months arrive. Traditionally it is then when the coats are gathered and the fine coat is combed out. The fibers are then spun and dyed.
The process today is slightly more automated – but it still takes great care in order to produce this incredibly luxurious yarn.
On to the role that simple economics plays in making Cashmere one of the most expensive fabrics in the world. Firstly the manufacturing process is complex. That means that it takes time and great expertise to produce a Cashmere yarn that is of the highest quality. Secondly, that well-known economic driver, scarcity, plays its role. Each goat produces only around 200g of Cashmere – that is not enough to make a single sweater. The coats of two or three goats are just about enough for the production of a single Chasmere garment. To say that Cashmere is esteemed for its rarity value is no understatement. Given these factors, it is no wonder that Cashmere garments demand such high prices.
Those considering purchasing Cashmere joggers need to take some factors into account when searching for a high-quality item. The first is that Cashmere is almost always combined with another fabric such as silk in order to prevent piling (that unattractive ‘bobbling’ of fabric). The higher the percentage of Cashmere, the higher the price. Secondly, only purchase your Cashmere items from reputable brands such as Quinn (quinnshop.com). Unfortunately, it has been reported that many manufacturers’ claims about the percentage of Cashmere in their products are not in fact true.
For those in search of the ultimate in comfort and exclusivity, the array of Cashmere items that can be sourced is a delight. But, if you are going to be spending a significant amount of money on a high fashion item that is a demonstration of your taste and style then ensure that the brand you choose has a reputation for quality.