From Production To Care: Everything You Need To Know About Cashmere

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From Production To Care: Everything You Need To Know About Cashmere
From Production To Care: Everything You Need To Know About Cashmere
Video: From Production To Care: Everything You Need To Know About Cashmere
Video: What You Need to Know About Real Cashmere 2023, February
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Conscious consumption is not just about cutting back on purchases, but also a thoughtful approach to what exactly a person acquires. In fashion, natural materials and synthetics alternately fall under the crossfire - all of them can harm the environment in their own way. With cotton, wool and acrylic, we figured it out - but what about cashmere? According to the UN, in 2016 alone, the total value of cashmere products for export was about $ 1.4 billion - this is almost five million kilograms of jumpers, cardigans and other things. Until recently, such material was not a cheap pleasure, but today the demand for cashmere is only growing, and its cost is falling. We figure out how this happened and whether it is worth buying cashmere sweaters in the mass market.

Text: Anna Eliseeva

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How did he come to be

For a long time, cashmere production was considered a complex craft, which was carried out mainly in Asia - the first attempts to copy the technology in Europe were not crowned with success. According to legend, the Persian philosopher and traveler Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani discovered new raw materials in the XIV century. A rare species of goats with a very thin and warm undercoat lived in a place called Ladakh - the story says that Hamadani himself knitted several socks from it, which he then presented to the king of the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The ruler was pleasantly surprised by the durability, softness and delicacy of the products, so the production of cashmere was not long in coming.

The first cashmere shawl came to Europe at the end of the 18th century. The thing delighted the French aristocracy: soft shawls became a symbol of luxury - for example, Napoleon's first wife Josephine allegedly had at least a hundred of them. In the 19th century, European industrialists themselves began to try to produce cashmere - only the Scots succeeded, who did not seek to raise rare goats in unusual conditions, but immediately bought raw materials from China. Companies supplying down from Asia have just begun to open around the world, including in Italy, the United States and Australia.

How cashmere is obtained

Cashmere is obtained from the undercoat of mountain goats, which are found in more than ten countries, including India, China, Iran and Iraq. If the product label indicates Scottish or Italian production, then, as a rule, this means that material was woven there, the raw materials for which were bought in Asia anyway. Goat down is combed by hand without harming animals, according to brands seeking transparent production and collaborating with farmers. Svetlana Tegin, founder of the TEGIN brand, and Lyudmila Norsoyan, founder of Fashion Factory School, agree. “If the goats are not combed, the fluff will shed, droop and interfere with the animal,” says Norsoyan.

One of the most valuable is the down of animals that are bred in Mongolia: in order to survive in the harsh climate, goats grow a special undercoat, the air cavities in which help maintain the thermoregulation of the animal. The latter is especially necessary for them: in winter, the local temperature reaches minus fifty, and in summer - plus forty degrees. The cashmere fiber is less than nineteen microns in diameter, but although thin, it is stronger, lighter, softer and warmer than any other wool.

“The key factor in the production of cashmere is purely natural: what kind of winter will fall, will there be a strong temperature difference during the change of seasons, how the goat will eat, what kind of fluff it will have time to grow during the winter. The smaller the diameter and the longer the fiber, the more valuable the cashmere. The world “harvest” of unrefined down is approximately 250 tons per year. One goat annually gives up to 150-200 grams of raw material (30-40 grams after manual cleaning). We recall the multiplication table and calculate how many goats should "put up" the fluff on our sweaters and how many sweaters it is possible to produce,”explains Lyudmila Norsoyan. - There is another nuance.The most valuable fiber is practically not dyed. The notorious Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli and other luxury brands offer cashmere in natural colors for a reason - the delicate structure of the fiber coarsens from treatment with chemicals and pigments. " “According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, it takes four goats to produce cashmere for one sweater,” adds Irina Kozlovskikh, Greenpeace and Zero Waste Project employee.

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What else does the price depend on?

Svetlana Tegin notes that luxury brands often use so-called baby cashmere - high-quality raw materials from young goat's wool, while mass-market - medium-quality fluff, whose villi are shorter and thicker. Baby cashmere is obtained at the first combing - one goat gives only 30 grams of fluff; the villi of such an undercoat have pointed ends, which makes the fabric particularly soft. It is used, for example, by the Loro Piana brand, for whose sweater you will have to pay about a thousand euros, or even more. “If you mix cashmere with silk, the product will be thinner and more difficult to manufacture, but this will not affect the quality in any way. If fluff is mixed with synthetic raw materials identical in texture, which is done by mass market brands, the product will be several times cheaper, but it will never correspond to the quality and properties of natural cashmere,”says the designer.

In just nineteen years - from 1990 to 2009 - the goat population in Mongolia has grown from five to twenty million. Today, the production of the material has spread throughout Asia and to some European countries, but China remains the undisputed leader, which creates 70% of the world's cashmere. The Business of Fashion believes that due to the desire of brands to make the material available, its quality has significantly decreased and, moreover, fakes have appeared. Francis Cosen, director of the Cornell Institute for Fashion and Fiber Innovation, claims that 100% cashmere can hide a mixture of wool, viscose, acrylic and possibly even rat fur.

“Cashmere in its pure form or its mixtures with fine silk and / or with the best grades of merino wool can prove to be equally durable with gentle use and care. But it is important to understand that if the composition contains less than 10% cashmere, then its presence is more of a marketing ploy, and not a real necessity,”adds Norsoyan.

Is cashmere harmful

for the environment - and is it ethical

“Due to the growing number of goats in Mongolia, the harm to nature is obvious,” says Irina Kozlovskikh. - 90% of the terrain is already under the threat of becoming a desert, including due to overgrazing. It exacerbates climate change, leading to the loss of biodiversity: desertified areas were home to endangered snow leopards, wild horses and Tibetan antelopes."

PETA representatives urge not to use any natural materials, including cashmere, primarily due to the potential threat to animal health. According to animal rights activists, producers begin combing goats even in winter in order to get raw materials as soon as possible - contrary to promises that goats get rid of fluff only in spring during natural molting. Pets are at risk of freezing and dying due to hair loss and stress, PETA said.

Many brands were ready to abandon animal materials - not only natural fur, but also cashmere. So, in the summer of 2018, ASOS announced that it would stop selling products using feathers, down, mohair, silk, cashmere, bones, teeth and shell. The company promised that by the end of January 2019 there will be no products made from these materials on the site. In addition, Topshop, H&M and Marks & Spencer decided to ditch mohair. According to a PETA report, workers at twelve farms in South Africa, the world's largest producer of mohair, have abused, maimed and even killed goats. The organization believes that cruelty is involved in any production that uses animals.

Not everyone, however, agrees with this approach. Australian designer Amy Jones, who founded cashmere brand Mia Fratino, believes big companies like ASOS are misleading consumers by making cashmere unethical. She does not deny that cheaper products may come from unscrupulous manufacturers who may abuse animals or use doped yarns. However, expensive brands can afford to follow the stages of production and make the process ethical and transparent for the buyer. “We are concerned that moving away from cashmere is encouraging bulk purchases of synthetics, which in turn has a negative impact on the environment,” adds Jones. Claire Press, editor of Vogue Australia, agrees: “It's wrong to say that one type of fabric is good and another is bad. It all depends on how the production was at each stage. Do you pay attention to animal welfare, carbon footprint, recyclability, use of toxic chemicals? All of the above must be taken into account."

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What are the alternatives

Finding an alternative to cashmere or just a material that meets all ethical and environmental standards is incredibly difficult. “For example, the production of alpaca wool is more environmentally friendly than cashmere. An alpaca drinks less water than a goat and produces enough wool in a year to make four to five sweaters, explains a Greenpeace employee. - I do not presume to recommend synthetic fabrics, because with each wash, microplastic fibers get into the sewer, and it is not yet possible to clean the sewage from them. If you want to reduce your garment footprint, buy a used one. Twenty new things are produced for each person per year - it seems a little, but the total is one hundred and forty billion."

If you are not ready to completely abandon new clothes, then you can bet on products, the production of which is completely or partially transparent. For example, Patagonia, which in the past made cashmere garments, has now dropped cashmere but offers cashmere trimmings. According to the Kozlovskys, the eco-trace from such material is 80% lower compared to the traditional one. The Naadam brand monitors and shows all stages of production, and also uses only environmentally friendly dyes and water filtration. Once a year, the brand's management travels to Mongolia to purchase raw materials from nomadic families, thereby supporting traditional local production. As noted in Naadam, the shepherds treat their animals well, collecting fluff in the usual way - by combing.

How to care

If you bought a cashmere item, make sure it lasts as long as possible. Designers note that with proper care, the product can be worn throughout life and passed on to future generations - the natural composition plays a key role here. So, brands working with cashmere advise to always wash the product by hand in warm water no warmer than thirty degrees and use special products or baby shampoo and rinse, trying not to rub or twist the thing. Drying is on a towel horizontally, unfolded. From time to time, you will have to comb the product with a special brush to collect the pellets. In addition, a cashmere item can always be taken for repair in the atelier, and some brands offer their own workshop for their restoration, for example, the German brand Allude. But basic care depends, first of all, on the owner of the thing.

PHOTOS: allude-cashmere, naadam

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