Winter has finally arrived and I’m thinking about fabrics that are luxurious and soft to the touch. Lately I’ve been using a lot of cashmere, mohair, and velvet in my designs because they are gorgeous and sophisticated. And they feel so good!
This has me thinking about how I’m very inspired by the beautiful story of how and where cashmere is made. Cashmere is actually not a wool but a hair that comes from the undercoat of the hircus goat. These goats are found mostly in Mongolia, China, Nepal, Afghanistan, India, and Iran. The highest quality cashmere comes from goats (especially baby goats) in Inner Mongolia where, because the goats live through harsh winters and have little to eat, they have to have a very full layer of super fine hair (the undercoat) to survive. This undercoat is what is used for cashmere fabric.
Loro Piano, the world renowned Italian designer, has spent many years establishing relationships with goat herders in the Gobi desert of Northern China and Inner Mongolia, and has perfected the art of gathering cashmere. True to her brand and philosophy, Loro Piano produces the highest quality cashmere you can find with a method that protects the people and the environment. This method allows the goat herders to breed fewer goats while maintaining the amount of the undercoat they collect. This protects the environment from over grazing and gives these locals a steady income. A win win! Here are some images of the Gobi desert and the tents where these amazing, fiesty herders live in unity with their goats.
How is cashmere collected? Here’s how it works:
1. To survive the freezing cold winters in the Gobi Desert, the goats develop an undercoat beneath the longer and coarser outer hair. Here is another picture of these beautiful hircus goats- just because they are so beautiful.
And this baby goat!
2. In the spring, when the weather gets warmer, the goats shed this undercoat- just like your dog if you have one. The goat herders harvest this hair (especially from the neck of the goats where the finest and softest hair is found) only once in their lifetimes using a delicate combing process. The goats aren’t sheared and it’s a totally safe and painless process.
3. The coarse outer hair must then be carefully and completely separated out to get the highest quality and luxuriously soft cashmere. This is where the real expertise of Loro Piano enters in because this is not easy to do. And, on top of that, each animal produces only about 9 ounces of under fleece a year which, after the separating, reduces down to no more than 3.5 ounces. This is why it’s such a specialty item!
And it’s absolutely worth using the highest quality cashmere (even though lesser quality cashmere is available) because it’s softer and much more longlasting. It should also make you feel good to support these local herders who, thanks to Loro Piano, can continue to live the way they have for centuries. Definitely worth the investment. And honestly, how can you resist after seeing these beautiful goats and their herders?
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