Cashmere is one of the most luxurious and precious wools on earth. It has an extraordinary feel and experience when worn, and is characterized by its soft, fine, and lightweight fibre. It is the process of obtaining it harmlessly from the Himalayan species of goats that makes Cashmere expensive. Since its advent, pure, and high-quality, Cashmere has enjoyed a high status in the eyes of royalty all around the world. But with the introduction of blended variants, Cashmere became affordable for everyone and lost that reverence and holy status that it held in the past
High-end fashion garments, even now, use Cashmere as their stable raw material. For this reason, it is much popular in the west. The reason for its lush and extravagant nature is its heavenly appearance and feel. Unlike other types of wool, Cashmere is not itchy against the skin. On the contrary, it is blissfully soft, smooth, and feathery light.
Where is Cashmere found?
The largest producer of Cashmere is China followed by Mongolia. These two regions make up for 90% of the Cashmere in the world. These are followed by Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and Kyrgyzstan. The finest Cashmere is produced in the Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir.
We, at Pashmina.com, make Pashminas with the Cashmere sourced from Ladakh that accounts for just 0.75% of the total Cashmere produced in the world. But its fineness, warmth, and luxurious mien exceed all of the other variants.
An exotic species of goat is found in the high mountain ranges of Ladakh, North India. A place called Changthang which lies over 14000 feet above sea level houses this rare species of goat, which is reared by nomadic herders. It is this goat whose wool has been long utilized to craft luxury shawls, scarves, wraps, and other accessories. The goat grows Cashmere as an undercoat over its underbelly, throat, and behind the ears. It is this wool that is painstakingly combed off gently by professionals and herders together. The process is completely ethical and no animal is hurt during the entire process. This hair is sent all the way to Kashmir, as locals do not have the expertise to process raw wool. Processed Cashmere products are found in Kashmir, but are exported to countries across the globe
Also read: The Trail of India’s Cashmere Goat Men
How is Cashmere collected
Wool from the goat is collected in the Spring season (around April-May). It is the time when the goat naturally sheds its down coat which allows it to stay cooler during the summer months. This natural process allows the cashmere to be extracted without any harm to the goat. The remaining portion of the wool still attached to the goat’s body is gently combed off and packed to be sent for processing.
A single goat produces 4-6 ounces (around 150 grams) of wool per year. Hence to prepare one Cashmere wrap, wool from 3 to 4 goats is considered enough. This wool is spun into yarns manually, and handwoven into luxury apparel, shawls, scarves, and hijabs.
Why is Cashmere Expensive?
Cashmere has a number of features that are rare to find and which makes it revered all over the world. Here are some amazing qualities of this luxury fabric and why cashmere is expensive, for which it is cherished by every admirer of slow, responsible, and timeless fashion.
To withstand a temperature of minus 40 degrees in the cold and arid area of Changthang, the goat naturally grows Cashmere as a down fibre. And with the help of this fine fleece, it actually survives these grim conditions. That is how warm Cashmere is. In fact, this extraordinarily soft wool is believed to be eight times warmer than sheep wool, and three times more insulating. In addition to this, even after being so warm, it is feathery light. A large-sized wrap is around 350-400 grams.
Cashmere acquisition and processing are all manual. Professionals manually comb the goat to acquire it. Later it is manually cleaned by locals, as well as Kashmiri womenfolk. After cleaning, it is handspun over a manual wooden spinning wheel to transform lumps of wool into yarn. Post this, men hand weave it over traditional handlooms for a few days. If a wrap is to be embroidered, it takes months to years for the completion of those complex designs. At Least a total of 100 artisans pour their heart and soul into one piece of wrap, or sweater, or any other Cashmere product.
Fineness of the Fibre
Cashmere, when spun into yarn, gives extremely fine threads of wool. These threads are just 12-16 microns in diameter, which is one-fourth of human hair. This makes Cashmere one of the finest and lightweight wool types around the world.
Empowering Underprivileged communities
As many as 50 families are such whose only source of income is Cashmere processing. This doesn't make Cashmere expensive, but more valued and revered by the local community
Cashmere is sourced from Ladakh only once a year, as the goat sheds only in the Spring-Summer season. Hence the producers of Cashmere products are dependent only on the quantity that is exported per year. This makes Cashmere products rare and exclusive with a limited supply and a high demand.
It is believed that once you get your hands on Cashmere products, it is hard to switch to any other type of wool.
Also read: Empowering Pashmina Artisans
Are all offerings of the same price?
Pricing of Cashmere does depend on the quality and size of the product. But there are some other factors that determine the price of Cashmere.
Sometimes similar looking products are priced differently. But the price variation isn't necessarily due to the difference in purity. There might be other differences as well
- Count: Yarn count is a number indicating the meters of yarn that can be spun per gram. The more yarn-count the thinner, the smoother and more precious is the scarf. This is the reason why Pure Cashmere is more expensive.
- Ply of the fibre used: Ply indicates the density of fibre used. Single-ply cashmere wraps would mean that basic thread is used in its single form. Double-ply or two-ply would indicate that fibre is double twisted. Two-ply cashmere wraps are more expensive than single ply, as more fibre is used to craft it
- Thickness of the fibre: How thick the fibre also determines the price of Cashmere wraps/shawls. The finer the fibre used, the more expensive the cashmere scarf becomes. In fact, it might be surprising, but it is believed that the finer the Cashmere, the warmer it is.
Once you experience the feel of Cashmere, you will know that the prices are very well deserved. Cashmere deserves all the respect and attention as well as a special place in your luxury wardrobe of winter staples.
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