Why is cashmere so much more expensive than other kinds of wool? There’s nothing quite like the soft touch of cashmere on your skin. It’s hard to imagine that the impossibly soft material is made from anything besides the threads of clouds and rainbows ― and it’s usually so expensive that you’d believe it if it were. It comes down to two things in the end: Its costly production process and scarcity.
Cashmere comes from the soft undercoat of goats bred to produce the wool. It takes from two to four goats to make a single sweater(!). The fibers of the warming undercoat must be separated from a coarser protective top coat during the spring molting season, a labor-intensive process that typically involves combing and sorting the hair by hand. These factors contribute to the not so high global production rate of cashmere-approximately 6,500 metric tons of pure cashmere annually, as opposed to 2 million metric tons of sheep’s wool. There’s a noticeable difference there.
The name cashmere comes from an old spelling of Kashmir, the region where its production and trade originated, possibly as early as the Mongolian empire in the 13th century. It’s been said, that from the 1500s to as late as the early 1900s, Iranian and Indian emperors used Kashmiri shawls in political and religious settings; in the Mughal Indian courts, for example, the acceptance of a shawl from a political figure established a hierarchy between the giver and the receiver.
In the late 18th century, the Scottish began to import the material to Scotland where it had success as high-quality cashmere can be up to eight times warmer than sheep's wool despite its very light weight.
Not all cashmere is equally luxurious though: The texture, color, and length of the fibers all affect manufacturing and pricing. Quality also depends on the region in which the wool is collected. As it is a very finite resource, there is only a certain amount produced in the world and like diamonds or gold. It is rare, so this is why it is priced accordingly.
So why should I pay for good quality cashmere?
In 2011, about 30% of the population of Mongolia worked directly in the cashmere sector. The sector generates about 13% of Mongolia’s GDP, and about half of Mongolia’s population in 2016 were either directly or indirectly employed by it. The livestock sector of agriculture is one of the most critical, comprising nearly 83% of agricultural output, with cashmere being a top export product for an array of small-scale herders. Cashmere is Mongolia’s second largest export in terms of the trading volume.
Cashmere, once considered a luxurious product for only the very wealthy, has recently been made more and more accessible. The best cashmere in the world is considered to come from the coldest regions of Mongolia due to the climate pushing local goats to adapt in conditions optimal for the creation of comfortable, soft coats. That is where our Nordic Yarn virgin cashmere comes from.
Despite the fact that buying cashmere, a long-lasting product, can be very sustainable and ethical (cashmere cultivation doesn’t hurt the animal, it supports small-scale producers, and it is functional, soft, and biodegradable), the overall effect may not be if overproduction damages the environment.
This is why hopes that consumers will reward sustainability in Mongolia by paying price premiums for products that are economically, environmentally, and socially beneficial.
We are very proud of our Eco Cashmere, the artisanal craftsmanship it takes to make every hank, its quality and the feel you get when working and wearing it.
Our goal at Nordic Yarn is to bring you Timeless, Ethical and Sustainable luxury that you and the planet deserves.