LEVELS OF CASHMERE QUALITY
Cashmere. Even the sound of it emotes a feeling of luxury. Imagine a gigantic pile of soft, thick cashmere sweaters you could just dive headfirst into, a huge bubble of softness in which you could happily drown. Ok, come on back, we’re talking cashmere and how the price can range from $20 at H&M to designer sweaters at Nordstrom costing $1,500 and up. All this from a goat, really? Baaaah, True Fashionistas, read on…..
We’ll start at the bottom, where, sigh, sometimes even fake cashmere can be found. “There is certainly fraud on this front,” says Frances Kozen, a director at the Cornell Institute of Fashion and Fiber Innovation. Buyers can be duped by fraudulent sellers peddling cashmere “blends”. Labeled 100 percent cashmere, they may also contain wool, viscose rayon, acrylic, and possibly even rat fur. Yes, we, or rather Frances, said it. These lower quality products have accustomed shoppers to lower expectations in their cashmere choices. The industry is fighting back by attempting to educate consumers as to where cashmere comes from.
Cashmere is actually the type of goat from whence the fabric comes, itself an old spelling of Kashmir, the geographical region in India and north Pakistan so well referenced by a certain huge 70’s rock band. Cashmere is also the name of the wool obtained from said goat, albeit a finer, stronger, lighter, softer and more insulating one compared to traditional sheep’s wool. Given the smoother texture of cashmere, once you’ve tried it, it’s said you’ll never go back to the other. Cashmere goats typically live in the Himalayas in the general region of Tibet, where winters last a good six months and temps drop to -40c. This is important as it gets so cold their fibers tend to grow long, aaaand those extendo wool fibers are the coveted hair made into cashmere. And now you know.
Other factors contributing to cashmere’s price include texture, color and length of said fibers. Slate.com indicates that whiter cashmere fibers require less dye, meaning less damage that coloring causes to the fabric. The region where the wool was collected also affects quality. Goats living in Inner Mongolia endure harsher winters and more meager diets, producing however finer hair and better quality. It also comes down, ultimately, to the quality of spinning and weaving that will affect the look, feel and touch of the final product.
Bloomberg reports that the price of cashmere depends on the following:
- Quality of the yarn
- Where the garment was manufactured
- Number of units purchased by the brand
- Plain old markup
And those annoying little ball that form on older sweaters, both cashmere and otherwise? That’s called “pilling”, and in our cashmere world, it happens when the fibers in a particular sweater are the shorter strands. Finer and smoother individual strands create softer garments, but they’re hard to come by, which means they cost more.
As for prices, GQ reports that cashmere sweaters from Macy’s private label cost $99, and run a good $2,000 for a Lucien Pellat-Finet. You can also score excellent quality at good value searching out the private labels of higher-end stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Nieman Marcus, Barneys, and Saks. If your True Fashionista wardrobe is screaming for cashmere on a chilly day, there’s something for all budgets and preferences.
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