A cashmere cardigan is a great cover up for both the summer and winter months and over the years, I have had quite a few which have stayed in my wardrobe for a long time. They feel lovely against the skin and also keep you cool in summer and comfortingly warm in the winter. A cashmere cardigan is a also a great classic piece that is completely versatile.
However I was disappointed to find out a few years back that there are a number of issues surrounding the ethics and sustainability of cashmere and haven’t bought any cashmere since. The supermarkets seemed to be filled with cheap cashmere cardigans and jumpers for a while and as with anything cheap in fashion, there always seems to be a price for someone to pay in some other way.
Cashmere is a luxury fibre, which comes from the coats of goats. With only twelve regions in the world having the right temperature and terrain to accommodate cashmere goats including Mongolia, China, India and Iran, it has been traditionally it was difficult to get hold, hence the cost and luxury status. Recently 1000’s of cashmere companies have appeared in China but there is a question mark over quality, ethics and sustainability of this industry. In addition to concerns over the living conditions of goats reared in factory farms, there is also the desertification caused by overgrazing of goats and other ethical concerns over sweatshops and manufacture.
There is however a sustainable alternative and if you choose carefully, you can find brands which are working to reduce desertification by using a feed for goats instead of grazing them on the ecologically sensitive grassland. This also has a positive effect on both the quantity and quality of the fibre making for really amazing knitwear. The most sustainable and harmless (in fact it is actually helpful) way of getting the cashmere is to gently comb it and many sustainable cashmere brands now ensure that this method is used. Although there is no formal ‘fair trade’ structure in the cashmere industry, it is possible to find brands like Pure Collection, that cut out middle men ensuring that herders get a premium price for their cashmere.
If you do choose to invest in a beautiful piece of sustainable cashmere, you can prolong its life making it even more sustainable by caring for it carefully. I have lost a beautiful cashmere sweater to moths on a least one occasion! The best way to avoid this is by storing it in a breathable zipped bag with some natural moth repelling cedar wood balls. It is also best to hand wash your cashmere with a specially formulated washing liquid.
Do you wear cashmere? have you ever considered sustainable cashmere?
With warmest wishes