Knowing what is cashmere will make you understand why it’s one of the most popular and rarest fabrics up to this date. Cashmere is a natural fabric produced from goat hair with a luxurious feel that’s used in producing scarves, sweaters, accessories, home goods, and more. Products made of 100% cashmere are generally expensive, and for a good reason.
What Is Cashmere - The Basics
Cashmere’s cost, reputation, and quality are all thanks to its history, source, and production method. Let’s discuss each of them in detail to help you appreciate this fabric more and find the right cashmere-made product to add to your closet.
what is Cashmere History
The real start of cashmere production and usage isn’t really known because references to the fabric go back to around the third century BC. However, most records show it began in the 13th century, in Kashmir, India, where it got its name. Indian and Iranian rulers even wore shawls made of cashmere during political and religious ceremonies.
Thanks to trading, cashmere was brought into the Middle East by the Turkestans and when Europeans knew about the fabric, they started importing it. It especially became popular in Scotland and France that helped boost the European economy. Today, Asia is the main exporter of cashmere, China being the highest producer.
How It’s Made
Commercial companies producing cashmere fabric use multiple processes based on traditional practices. The difference is that the process is longer and follows better standards.
Cashmere comes from goat breeds in Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia, Northern India, Southwest China, and Tibet. They have little fat in their bodies, so they produce soft, fleecy, fine hair underneath their underbelly coat to stay protected from the cold weather. Once the temperature increases, the goat’s coat sheds naturally, which is the time producers can start obtaining the fiber they need.
What is Cashmere Process
The complicated production of cashmere involves seven steps, namely:
- Coat Collection
- Fiber Collection
- Cleaning and Dyeing
- Weaving or Knitting
During the molting or shedding season, the soft underneath coats get collected in two ways:
- Shearing: One is through shearing, which is done without harming the goats that produce rough hair. As such, it will require more thorough succeeding processes. The produced wool has a shorter fiber and low quality, as well as more prone to pilling.
- Combing: Another is through combing, which will produce less coarse hairs and better-quality cashmere.
Of course, the hair collected from the goat isn’t clean. It can have dirt, dust, impurities, and more that need to be removed or cleaned. They’re usually removed manually and then get washed carefully and thoroughly.
The next thing producers do is comb the collected coats into straight lines to separate the overcoat from the soft, fine undercoat needed for cashmere production.
The collected fibers from the goat’s undercoat get assembled into bales and then fed into a spinning wheel or machine. The thinness or thickness of the yarn will depend on the ply or the number of threads that get twisted to produce the strands.
The one-ply strand is thin and has great elasticity while the two-ply type is lightweight and has a good balance between elasticity and warmth. Those with three to four plies are the heaviest, but not necessarily the warmest. Thus, most manufacturers produce two-ply cashmere wools.
Cleaning and Dyeing
The yarns undergo another round of cleaning and then are dyed to produce variants. As such, you can find cashmere wool products with different shades.
Weaving or Knitting
The cleaned and/or dyed yarn gets knitted or woven to create cashmere fabric.
To give the cashmere fabric specific qualities, they undergo special processes such as treatment with flame-retardants, water-repellents, and more. Responsible manufacturers only use the right amount of treatment products to ensure they don't affect the wool's quality.
What is Cashmere Environmental Impacts
With the growing concern for the environment all over the world, it’s also best to understand the effects of cashmere production. It will not only make you understand better what is cashmere but will also ensure you know whether you’re contributing to animal cruelty and environmental destruction. That said, cashmere production both has negative and positive impacts.
As with any products made from animals, cashmere production comes with lots of controversies, including its environmental effect. The demand for cashmere fabric led to its low price and increased production, so herders had to breed and raise more goats. Thus, the lands where they grow aren’t healthy because of overcrowding. This also leads to ecological imbalance because the green lands will have reduced grasses as the goats feed on them.
Apart from its possible effects on the environment, there are also concerns about animal cruelty because the coats are the goats’ protection from the cold. With the high demand, some producers remove the coats earlier than usual or mid-winter. As such, you must ensure you purchase cashmere from manufacturers that have strict protocols.
The world’s reliability on natural fibers has a positive impact on the environment since they’re biodegradable, unlike synthetic ones. As such, they don’t produce waste that will remain in the eco-system for several years.
In terms of what is cashmere, it is also a fabric free from fertilizers, pesticides, and more, so they’re non-toxic and their production is eco-friendly.
Certifications to Look For
As mentioned, here are the certifications you need to look out for when buying cashmere if you’re too concerned about how your clothes and stuff are produced. These certifying bodies ensure the fabric has been made following eco-friendly and cruelty-free standards and guidelines.
GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)
GOTS focuses on certifying natural fabrics produced following sustainable, ethical, and organic guidelines. They check how raw materials are harvested and processed, as well as how the final fabrics are labeled. They also give approvals for the additives manufacturers plan to use.
Kering Standards for Raw Materials and Manufacturing Processes
Also responsible for checking animal fibers and products, Kering ensures manufacturers follow sustainable and safe practices. That said, they’re not as strict as most certifiers but is a good way to identify cashmere fabric made using eco-friendly standards.
GRS (Global Recycled Standard)
Cashmere is among the recyclable fabrics and GRS provides manufacturers an opportunity to have their products recognized as environmentally friendly. The company oversees the recycling of several artificial and organic textiles.
Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)
RCS has a similar purpose as GRS since they also help the whole world know that cashmere products of certain manufacturers are eco-friendly. Their primary goal is to enhance the utilization of recycled materials found in textiles.
Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) Sustainable Cashmere Standard
Being new in the cashmere certifying industry, SCS is a branch of SFA that ensures responsible cashmere production. They have standards for animal management, grassland health, and others.
What Is Cashmere - The Different Types
Cashmere fabric is available in different types based on its grade quality, namely Grade A, Grade B, and Grade C.
This type of cashmere has the lowest quality and rough texture, and each cashmere hair has a width of approximately 30 microns. Manufacturers use this wool in the production of garments that don’t usually get into contact with your skin.
Grade B cashmere wool has an intermediate quality with each hair having a width ranging from 18 to 19 microns. It has a slightly scratchy and rough texture. The fabric and products made of it are available at a mid-range price.
Having the highest grade, this type of cashmere has the finest texture with each hair having a width of 14 microns or below. Of course, garments made out of it have the highest quality and cost.
What Is Cashmere - Ways to Identify Quality
With the different cashmere wool grades and other manufacturers mixing cashmere with other fabrics, knowing how to check the wool’s quality is essential. It will ensure you’ll get your money’s worth. Below are some of the ways to check for cashmere quality.
Generally, manufacturers use thin, long fiber strands to produce high-quality cashmere products. Running your hand down firmly and slowly onto the fabric will help you determine if the product is made of short and low-quality cashmere hair. That is, the fibers pill off, come loose, or ball up quickly. Although cashmere fiber will shed after some time, it shouldn’t while it’s still new.
The ability to hold its shape is one of the standout features of high-quality cashmere or well-constructed cashmere items. All you have to do is gently stretch the product and look closely to check how the threads have been knitted or woven together. If the fabric appears loose and you can see through it easily, its quality is low.
Newly-made, high-quality cashmere is soft and feels luxurious to touch. However, if it’s too soft, it’s most likely been over-washed or treated with lots of chemicals that damage the fibers and decrease the fabric’s lifespan and durability. Meaning, it should be soft and firm at the same time.
What Is Cashmere - In Conclusion
Obtained from cashmere goat’s undercoat hair that undergoes labor-intensive processes, this type of wool isn’t as insulative as other types of wool but is finer and softer, making it skin-friendly. It’s also breathable and lightweight, so it’s mostly used in manufacturing winter and fall products. That said, cashmere is available at various quality levels and price ranges.
Quality cashmere is long-lasting, elastic, and long-lasting, so make sure you carefully evaluate what you’re purchasing. Additionally, cashmere production comes with issues but multiple certifying bodies will help you identify which brand to wear. Look for one or more of those logos or stickers now you know what is cashmere.
More Articles About Wool
Now you know all about what is cashmere, read more about wool: