Cashmere comes from the undercoat of the cashmere goat (Capra Hircus Laniger), whose natural Himalayan habitat, which plunges to -30°F in the winter, provides the optimal ecosystem to produce this rare insulating fiber.
A sheep can produce up to 30 lbs. of wool each year, which yields 300 miles of yarn. The supply of cashmere, on the other hand, is extremely limited. A typical cashmere goat produces only 3.5 ounces of usable underdown per year and this fiber can only be harvested by hand once a year during the early Spring moulting season. It takes 137 cashmere goats to be as productive as 1 sheep (16 oz. ÷ 3.5 oz. X 30 lbs.). Cashmere makes up only 0.5% of the world’s total wool production – that’s one half of one percent. Yikes!
Once cashmere has been harvested, the fibers are dyed and aerated, then they are carded (a process that detangles and lines up the hairs in thin sheets so they can be spun into yarn). The quality of cashmere is graded based on its fineness and length. High quality individual cashmere hairs can be as thin as 14 micrometers; in contrast, a typical human hair is 5-6 times thicker (70 microns) than cashmere. Grade A cashmere fibers are the longest and thinnest with the smallest diameter (14-15.5 microns), Grade B is thicker (19 microns) and Grade C is about twice the thickness of Grade A (30 microns). Cashmere comes in 3 colors (gray, brown and white) in its natural state. The softer the cashmere, the better the grade.
“Cashmere takes color beautifully. It is soft, light, warm and never itchy. Cashmere is my first love.” (Meg Cohen, NY Fashion Designer)
Velvety smooth, cashmere is one of the softest fibers in the world. It is also lighter and can be up to 3X more insulating than sheep wool. Bonus: unlike sheep wool, cashmere does not contain lanolin, which makes it both hypoallergenic and hygroscopic (breathable and, thus, suitable to be worn year-round).
It’s no surprise that people love cashmere:
“Playing a concert with Zubin is like being surrounded by a well-loved, cashmere-lined silk glove.” (Isaac Stern, American violinist)
“I do not believe in God. I believe in cashmere.” (Fran Lebowitz, American author, public speaker and actor. My favorite Fran Lebowitz commentary)
“I have a tendency to rotate a few pairs of ripped jeans and an old cashmere sweater.” (Candace Bushness, the New York Observer author whose column was adapted into Sex and the City)
“If a man doesn’t fit, you can exchange him 7 days later for a gorgeous cashmere sweater.” (Sophie Kinsella, author of Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic and Shopaholic Abroad, now a movie)
In the US, a cashmere product may be labelled as containing cashmere only under very specific circumstances, but the business is not very well-controlled; hence, dealing with a reputable cashmere design house is important.
My destination for cashmere is New York’s Meg Cohen Design (www.megcohendesign.com). A fashion designer whose first love is cashmere, Meg works exclusively in woven and knitted natural fibers, scouring the world for only the best raw materials and partnering with the finest mills in England, Scotland, Ireland and Italy to produce her stunning, luxurious, unisex scarves, hats, gloves and other timeless, fashionable pieces. With a strong commitment to sustainability, Meg has recently been producing more of her cashmere line-up in Nepal and India, which are closer to the natural habitat of the magnificent cashmere goat. I won’t buy cashmere from anyone but a reputable source; female-owned/female-staffed Meg Cohen Design fits the bill. I have fallen in love with Meg’s light-as-air “Whisper” scarves, which can be worn inside or out, and are available in 15+ gorgeous colors.
“We sell huge amounts of classic charcoal and black cashmere. People want lighter, brighter colors to add some warmth and cheer during these challenging pandemic times. This is reflected in our new collection.” (Meg Cohen)
A return trip from Mongolia to New York City is 12,760 miles as the crow flies. You don’t have to suffer from jetlag to get your hands on the very best cashmere available in America. Just click here.
If you have a travel bug, use the Rome2Rio trip planner. We love it.
Meg has been a friend for more than 10 years. We’ve had many good times together, including enjoying lobster rolls at the Mermaid Oyster Bar in Soho and swimming in Lake Owassa, where Meg and her delightful photographer/musician/writer/artist husband, Hugh, escape to their little piece of heaven as often as possible. I can’t wait to see them again soon.
Now challenge yourself and your friends to our Cashmere Quiz of the Day, by downloading Quizefy from the app store if you haven’t already done so, then see how much you know and Strut Your Smart. Our Cashmere Quiz is only available today, then it disappears. We’ll be back again every Tuesday with a special blog posted at www.quizefy.com, along with a new trivia quiz on the same topic as the blog. Don’t forget to follow Quizefy in social media, so we can remind you of upcoming blog and quiz content.