first_img(Arielle Chen | Daily Trojan) Until now. Cashmere was once the provenance of the well-off; few could afford its hefty price tag. But nowadays, you can find cashmere for as little as $50. More people can just waltz into a fast-fashion store such as H&M or Uniqlo and stock up on cashmere sweaters, scarves and socks. How, you ask? The answer is as always when a price is too good to be true: through exploitation and overproduction.  Keep in mind that a $50 cashmere sweater won’t be anywhere near the same quality as a $200 one. Also, be aware that some products marketed as 100% cashmere have been found to contain yak fur or even rat hair. Save up and take care of your cashmere by occasionally dry cleaning them and storing them in bags, and it’ll last you a lifetime.  As a result, cashmere is knitwear’s ultimate luxury textile; it’s rare, it’s hard to harvest and it’s much more comfortable and delicate compared to scratchy fibers like lambswool or mohair. Starting all the way back in the 14th century, demand has always outpaced supply.  Cashmere gets its name from the Kashmir goat. These goats, which are native to the Himalayan mountains in China and Mongolia, must withstand extremely harsh weather. To cope with minus-30 degree Celsius temperatures, the goats grow two coats: a thick, coarse outer coat and a superfine, supersoft inner coat. The latter only makes up around a quarter of the goat’s total fleece, and they are the fibers that comprise cashmere. I was raised to revere cashmere. My mom owned a few cashmere sweaters, in grey, black and green, and when I touched them they were as soft and fluffy as clouds. Instead of hanging them up in the closet, she’d fold them neatly and slip them into Ziploc bags to stave off hungry moths. Historically, cashmere has originated from nomadic tribes who shepherd their flock of goats across the vast Mongolian steppes; in fact, cashmere is Mongolia’s second-highest earning export. But cashmere production has increased dramatically in recent years — almost 300% since the 1990s — which forces the herders to keep up by settling for lesser-quality wool and adding more goats. There are now over 61 million goats in Mongolia causing unsustainable, irreversible damage to the land through overgrazing. Kering’s Environmental Profit & Loss tool calculates cashmere as having 36%more environmental impact than plain old wool.  Cashmere is up to three times more insulating than sheep’s wool and much more expensive too. For one, it’s quite difficult to gather — most of this downy hair is collected by hand during the goats’ molting season. The average sweater requires hair from four to six goats, as the yield per goat is quite scarce, ranging from a few grams to about 0.5 kilograms — a number that gets reduced even further once the hair has undergone treatment and processing. One goat typically yields about 150 grams of cashmere per year.  Look, I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from experiencing their own slice of cashmere heaven. Feeling the fine, gauzy texture of cashmere against your skin is one of life’s great pleasures (at least, I think so). But at the very least, consume cashmere mindfully.  Kitty Guo is a senior writing about fashion. Her column, “Tongue in Chic,” runs every other  Monday. I was careful never to accidentally toss them into the washing machine with all the other laundry — these sweaters required a special trip to the dry cleaners. She gifted me one when I went off to college; when I slip it over my head, it’s snug and downy against my skin, as if I’ve sprouted a layer of fur. last_img

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