The word “cashmere” has been synonymous with luxury for what seems like forever. This soft and opulent material lends itself to scarves, blankets, coats, shawls, and so much more.
Cashmere products conjure up images of rich, warm indulgence.
As we embark on another long winter, perhaps you are considering purchasing a cashmere product for yourself. Maybe you have heard about all the wonders of the woolen material, but you can’t quite figure out what, exactly, makes it so special. Why is cashmere so coveted?
The answer to this question involves a long history, and it ultimately boils down to supply and demand. Let’s explore why cashmere is so desirable, and what that means for you.
Where Does Cashmere Come From?
You’ve certainly heard of cashmere before, and you probably associate it with utmost luxury, but how much do you really know about the material?
Cashmere is an incredibly soft fiber that comes from a goat species called, unsurprisingly, the cashmere goat. These animals live in the Himalayas, where temperatures can reach lows of -22º Fahrenheit. In order to survive these harsh conditions, cashmere goats have thick, luxurious coats—one outer, protective layer and one soft, luxurious undercoat.
One reason that cashmere is so expensive is its scarcity. One cashmere goat will only produce approximately 200 grams, or 7 ounces, of wool each year. On the contrary, the average sheep makes about 3 kilos, or 106 ounces, of wool every year. Put differently, the global economy only produces around 6,500 metric tons of cashmere annually, compared to about 2 million tons of sheep’s wool every year.
It is also quite costly to produce cashmere. Because the fiber is so soft and fine, the process of harvesting and treating it must be handled very delicately. First, it has to be cleaned to remove any grease or dirt. Then, it is dyed and aerated. Finally, it must be detangled and spun into yarn, which is then used to create luxurious cashmere products.
The scarcity of cashmere, the lengthy production process, and the high demand for cashmere products contribute to its high price.
Cashmere’s Historical Legacy
Another reason that cashmere is so desirable is that it has been around for a very long time. The production and trade of cashmere began as early as the 13th century in a region called Kashmir. It has always been a highly-valued good, often given as gifts by Iranian or Indian emperors in political and religious settings.
In the 18th century, a Scottish textile manufacturer brought cashmere to Scotland. He began importing the material and selling it to upper-class British women, and cashmere shawls became a highly fashionable accessory among the wealthy. To this day, Scotland is still known to be a hub for pure, high-quality cashmere products.
Cashmere shawls stayed in fashion in Europe for much of the 19th century. By 1870, however, they started to grow less popular; producers began to use cheaper, more abundant materials. However, it seems to have found its place back into popularity. Fashion designers began to use cashmere more and more in the late 20th century, and it is still very sought-after today.
The Pros of Wearing A Cashmere Coat
For all of the reasons laid out above, cashmere is a coveted material. It is scarce and costly to produce, and the final product is just rich and lush -- that is what makes cashmere so desirable and timeless.
Of all the clothing items and accessories made from cashmere, a cashmere coat is one of the most desirable. These coats provide everything you could possibly need from a light winter jacket: warmth, softness, a lightweight feel, and effortless style.
Let’s delve further into the several reasons a cashmere coat is a must-have.
Firstly, cashmere is warm—really warm. To be more specific, it is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool. Those cashmere goats living in sub-zero temperatures in the Himalayas need to stay warm all winter long, and so do you. Even if you live somewhere more temperate, a cashmere coat will keep you feeling cozy all throughout the colder months.
Cashmere is also incredibly soft. As we have mentioned, this is one of the main draws of the material: it simply feels good. You can wear a soft, comfy cashmere coat for a night out or to simply lounge around the house and drink hot chocolate.
Another reason that people love cashmere coats is their lightness. Materials like sheep’s wool tend to be heavier and thicker, and even scratchy-feeling. While many coats need to be thick and heavy in order to keep you warm, cashmere does that job while remaining lightweight.
Finally, cashmere has been around for centuries. It is a highly desired and sought-after material, and it seems like something that will never go out of style. You can wear a cashmere coat for years and years while staying on trend in a classic look.
How To Find the Best Cashmere
Are you convinced that a cashmere coat is the way to go this winter? If so, you are probably thinking about the quality.
Fiber quality is one characteristic that determines the purity of cashmere. Less expensive cashmere will have shorter fibers, as short as 0.8 inches, while the most high-quality cashmere fibers will be up to 2.5 inches. The diameter of the fibers also correlates to the quality level of cashmere. Fibers with smaller diameters go into the most expensive, luxury garments, while thicker fibers are used for more inexpensive items.
The signature softness of cashmere is a result of the fineness of the fibers. This means that longer and thicker fibers may be more scratchy and rough. Often, the shorter, thicker fibers are used in a blend of other materials, like wool or silk. Less expensive cashmere coats are usually made of fibers that are less pure and fine, meaning they are not quite as soft as 100% pure cashmere.
The quality of cashmere is determined not only by the fiber itself, but by the production process it goes through after being harvested. If you are looking for top-of-the-line cashmere, you should purchase your coat from a company that values craftsmanship and quality. Italy and Scotland have both become widely-known as experts on producing cashmere and cashmere products and are always very high-quality.
Cashmere Capelette in Oatmeal.
Cashmere has been a luxury product for centuries, and for good reason. It is functional and luxurious; it keeps you cozy and warm without weighing you down.
If you are looking to indulge in a cashmere product, a cashmere coat is always an excellent option. And to think, we have the cashmere goats to thank for keeping us so toasty warm.
If you’re ready to experience the luxe of cashmere for yourself, click here to explore SENREVE’s collection of cashmere goods.
Sources: Business Insider, Slate, LA Times, Independent