Cashmere is a well-known wool fabric that’s typically used in sweaters, hats, scarves, thermal gear, and much more. It comes from a goat native to the Gobi Desert and Central Asia and is considered to be one of the softest types of wool to exist. Though not insulative, being softer and finer than other types of wool allows it to be weaved into dense yet thin fabric. Sheep’s wool is still the most insulative, but cashmere can be comfortably worn against the skin and works great for clothes like underwear and undershirts.
The fabric is referenced as far back as the third century B.C., but indications imply that the wool has been used for much longer than that. The goats that cashmere comes from were bred in Mongolia and the Kashmir region; trading with Turkestan spread cashmere to the Middle East and beyond. It was especially popular in France, and merchants would risk traveling along dangerous trading routes in order to bring the fabric to the European market.
Today, cashmere is primarily produced in China, but other Central Asian nations also thrive off of the cottage cashmere economy. As cashmere becomes more and more in demand due to the rise in world population and decrease in poverty, the production of cashmere does as well. China will most likely remain the main exporter of cashmere for the foreseeable future, and though there are many unethical textile manufacturers, there are just as many ethical cashmere producers as well.
Cashmere can be processed in several different ways. Traditional production methods involve people shearing the hair from the goats, combing it, and spinning it into fine yarn. Mass cashmere production follows roughly the same process, but they do so at a much larger scale. The goats are first shorn once the hair is grown into a full coat, then the raw wool is cleaned and combed. The combed wool is led to a spinning machine to create yarn, which is then cleaned again and dyed to the desired color. Finally, the cashmere is woven into the product it’s meant for and possibly treated with flame-retardants or other final treatments before being packaged and shipped.
Due to how unique cashmere is, there is no synthetic alternative for the fabric. Rather than switch to purely synthetic fabrics like manufacturers expected, the world economy moved toward fair trade and sustainable textile processes. Cashmere will have a long-lasting impact on how 21st-century textile evolves as nothing compares to how luxurious the wool is. So long as it’s on the market, people will continue to pay for cashmere products.
Doaa Dashoush is an experienced businesswoman in the fashion industry. She currently serves as the President and CEO of GFASHION, a global luxury brand currently based in New York City. GFASHION prides themselves on their unique approach to the industry. They don’t follow trends set by others. The Luxury brand focuses on innovative design through their work with the top designers on collections that reflect the company’s craftsmanship.