Cashmere = luxury, mystique, and style.

Cashmere goat, Himalaya, Himachal Pradesh, India
Photo by Jelle Visser

Few products suggest luxury, mystique, and style the way that cashmere wool does.

Part of the cashmere mystique is cashmere is actually hair and not wool that associate with goats.  When woven, the cashmere produces as a product known for being soft, light, strong, and most importantly fine.

Cashmere is equally favored by men and women.  A cashmere sweater or scarf is a classic piece in any wardrobe, which looks handsome with slacks or jeans. Women adore jumpers, ponchos, and twin sets made from the fiber. A cashmere top coat is a classic addition to any wardrobe. A sport coat or blazer made from cashmere is a versatile investment that fits into almost any wardrobe. Cashmere is also a popular choice for items around the home, including blankets and throws, robes, slipper-socks, and robes.

While lesser fibers and blends may seem to be cheaper, a product made from cashmere is an investment. When compared to merino wool, cashmere has many characteristics that make it stand out as a choice.  Unlike some wool and wool blends that are dulled in the manufacturing process, one of Cashmere’s trademarks is that is always soft to the touch. The look of cashmere is a polished, prosperous one, no matter how it is used.

Cashmere can be a four-season product as it will keep you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cold. It keeps the wearer comfortable despite being more lightweight in comparison to merino wool. This is a result of the fiber’s properties of the fabric.  Depending on the humidity of the air, cashmere is highly suitable for almost any climate, even traditionally warmer ones.

Cashmere is graded. The highest quality product, grade A, is composed of fibers that are the longest, and thinnest and highest regarding quality. These fibers range from 14 to 15.5. The resulting threads are considered the finest and the feel is the softest to the touch. The fibers are longer than any other grades, normally from 34 to 36 mm. Grade A fiber cashmere products will last longer than the other grades of products. Grade B and C Cashmere items are still wonderful products. Grade B fiber isgenerally thicker than grade A, with a diameter of 19 microns. Grade C fabrics are about 30 microns in diameter. As the fibers are thicker, there can be a perceptible difference to the touch. However, the fiber will wear well with proper use and cleaning.

In the United States, what is and isn’t able to be sold or bartered as cashmere is clearly defined as law under the U.S. Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939.  The Cashmere & Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute was also established in 1984 to promote the use of genuine cashmere and camel hair products and to protect the interests of manufacturers, retailers and consumers of these products.

Ultra-fine Cashmere is called Pashmina, named for the pashmina goats from which the hair is harvested. This is still produced by communities in Indian Kashmir but its rarity and high price, added to the political instability in that region, make it very hard to source true authentic pashmina and more difficult to regulate quality.

Cashmere is an anglicized version of the original word Kashmir, which was used to describe an area of the northwestern region of South Asia. Until the mid-19th century, Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley located between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. Cashmere product is collected during the spring molting season when the goats naturally shed their winter coat. In the Northern Hemisphere, the goats molt as early as March and as late as May. The annual yield is up to one pound of fiber per goat, with an average of 4 to 6 ounces of Underdown. The natural colors of Cashmere are gray, brown and white. The wool is readily able to absorb most dyes, which explains why products have such a wide range of colors.

Demand for Cashmere has resulted in a global industry where most regions of the globe lay some claim to the name. Europe has had a long history of its own with Cashmere. In 1799, William-Louis Ternaux, the leading woolens manufacturer in France under Napoleon, began to produce imitation India shawls, which he called ‘cachemires,’ using the wool of Spanish merino sheep. By 1830, weaving cashmere shawls with French-produced yarn had also become an important Scottish industry. Austrian Textile Manufacturer Bernhard Altmann is credited with bringing cashmere to America on a mass scale beginning in 1947. New Zeeland and Australia fine wools are also referred by the term cashmere, from their ranges of goats and goat herding. One problem with New Zealand cashmere farming is the small amount of yield produced. Because of associated uncertainty in fiber price, these farmers opt not to shear every year.

Cashmere is a classic fabric and fashion icon. It’s strength, durability, even-temperature qualities and stylish good looks always make it a welcome addition to any wardrobe.