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Not All Cashmere is Created Equal

Posted on June 06 2017

Not all Cashmere is Created Equal
Although it is undisputedly a luxurious fibre, not all cashmere is created equal.
We all know cashmere is expensive because it is a rare, luxurious fibre. Read on to learn the difference between a $200 cashmere sweater and a $700 cashmere sweater...

Cashmere is produced by special cashmere goats, and these goats grow a just a small amount of cashmere each year. One goat can make approximately 1 pure cashmere scarf each year.

These goats are special goats that need to live in the right environment or their cashmere won't be as soft. So, a cashmere goat living in the highlands of Mongolia where the temperatures are extreme will produce a better coat than cashmere goat that has lived in Auckland, New Zealand where the temperature is moderately humid and warm. The extreme, harsh weather is what makes the goats grow such soft, warm coats.
Cheap cashmere jumpers exist because some retailers are happy to compromise on quality.

A $250 cashmere jumper and a $550 cashmere jumper are going to be very different to touch, but they will most likely have the same 100% cashmere label because they are both the same fibre, just very different qualities. The cheaper item will most likely feel coarser, not as soft and will not last as long.
How can 100% cashmere vary so much? Well, cashmere manufacturers choose from grades: A, B, and C. Grade A fibres are the best and most expensive, meaning they are the finest and thinnest. Grade B is slightly thicker than A, so it is less soft. Grade C is almost double the thickness of Grade A, so is significantly coarser. However, manufacturers do not write on the garment labels what grade they have used, just that it is 100% cashmere.

The best way to tell the quality is by feeling the garment; if it feels rough to touch chances are the quality of the cashmere isn't great.

A-grade cashmere is brushed from the goats rather than shaved, this is how it manages to stay long and thin, with tapered ends that perfectly twist into the yarn. These tapered ends mean that yarn is smoother, stronger and more flexible so the garment will not pill as much. Lower grade cashmere is shaved, meaning the fibres are shorter and therefore make worse knitwear, but the process is faster so this is used in cheap cashmere manufacturing.

Cashmere is sold by weight, so selling lighter weight cashmere jumpers this is another place where retailers price proce of a cashmere jumper. This may seem like a no-brainer, but an oversized boyfriend cable style is going to be more expensive that a lightweight, shrunken style. The weight makes it more expensive, so if something is made in an airy, lightweight and gauzy style, it will be cheaper.

And, like with most products, you pay for the detail. In knitwear, the detail is in the complexity of the knit and any added accessories like zips, pockets and buttons. A plain jersey stitch, like a women's basic sweater, is going to be faster to make, so that would be cheaper. A cable or waffle zip up cardigan is slower, so it is more expensive.
Finally, whether your cashmere sweater is $50 or closer to $2,000, all sweaters pill as it is a natural fibre and it will have loose ends in the fibre. However, the fluffier or lighter the knit is, the more it will pill. But don't panic, the more you wear your cashmere, the less it should pill and the softer it will as the loose ends are brought to the surface. The best, and in our opinion, the only, way to deal with cashmere pilling is to use a cashmere comb. This is a gentle way to pull off the loose fibres without more breakages to the other fibres in the yarn.

So, the difference between expensive and cheap cashmere is purely quality. The cheaper the garment, the worse the quality.

Some people might be fooled into buying some very affordable cashmere in the big chains, but once you look at what you are actually buying, it becomes clear that the money is not well spent. The product will look drastically different after a few washes.

The only problem with cashmere is that its luxury and softness is addictive. Once you try it, it will be difficult to go back to normal wool.

Final words: beware cashmere jumpers under the $200 mark


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