Cashmere wool, usually known as cashmere, is a fiber obtained from cashmere goats, pashmina goats, and some other goat breeds. It has been used to make yarn, textiles, and clothing for hundreds of years. Cashmere is closely associated with the Kashmir shawl, the word “cashmere” deriving from an anglicization of Kashmir when the Kashmir shawl reached Europe in the 19th century from Colonial India. Common usage defines the fiber as wool, but it is finer, stronger, lighter, softer, and three times more insulating than sheep wool.
This is the era of recycling. The popular brands are focused on going climate-neutral with their production. Yet, not all recycled cashmere is the same in quality, he adds, because it can reduce the cashmere fiber length. When you’re chopping up sweaters and repurposing them, you will affect the length of the fiber. That can also affect the feel and durability: shorter fibers can result in a rougher material, which pills easily.
August Bard Bringéus, the co-founder of Asket, a men’s luxury basics brand, said that he opted for recycled cashmere, producing sweaters made of 97 percent recycled cashmere from post-consumer waste, forgoing virginity fibers entirely.
Una Jones founded the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), an assortment of “standards” looking to reduce cashmere impact. Traceability across the supply chain, she argues, is essential to get a comprehensive cashmere production picture. In 2020, the SFA developed the first global standard for cashmere with a chain of custody program operating in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China. SFA works with Marks & Spencer, J.Crew and Inditex, which also offer competitive pricing on cashmere sweaters.
Bruce Gifford, CEO of Naked Cashmere, said that the fibers’ length and quality are important. While the company has been selling cashmere sweaters through its direct-to-consumer brand for the past five years, it has added a new recycled cashmere line, called Cashmere Reborn, for this spring. The lack of clarity in the industry is frustrating, whether it pertains to virgin or recycled fibers, said Bruce. There are a lot of brands selling 100 percent recycled cashmere sweaters,” says Gifford. “That’s not entirely true because there are very few mills in the world that can produce such a product.” Rather, he explains, variations of blends are being sold and then marketed as “recycled cashmere”.
Therefore, it could be said that selecting sustainable cashmere is a problem as you don’t even know if it’s real or only the strategy to sell.