Oh cashmere…how I love you so!
As most of you probably know I live in Canada, which means I need to get through a long, tedious winter each year of my life. Thankfully, I have come to learn that there are a few things that I can do to make winter a bit more enjoyable, such as: vacations in the Caribbean, the sauna, hot-chocolate, and cashmere dresses. I even gave winter sports a shot last year, which tragically ended with my knee-injury while downhill skiing. So unfortunately I can’t add winter sports to the list quite yet. Ok, back to cashmere…
Some of you might be wondering what the big fuss is about and why it has to be so expensive. I did some research and along with the answers to these questions, I’ve discovered some interesting facts.
While this material carries the name of its land, Kashmir, some refer to it as “soft gold,” which I think is appropriate on many levels. The production of cashmere goes as far back as the 16th century in Mongolia. I though it was kind of interesting that the first European appreciator of cashmere was Napoleon Bonaparte, when he brought Josefina a pashmina from Egypt.
Many of those who feel unimpressed by cashmere are often unaware that the source of this mild hostility stems less from the merit of the material itself as it does from the wide accessibility of low quality pieces. These mass-produced items have little in common with “real” cashmere, despite the claims of their manufacturers. The amazing thing is that high-grade cashmere pieces can be worn for over 10 years and – similarly to best wine – only improve with age.
Cashmere is comparable to wine in another regard; the quality of material is dependent on a highly specific climatic conditions (long, cold winters with temperature as low as -40C and short but hot summers of +30C). In these conditions, the goats survive through the production of a fleece undercoat beneath the fur. Can you believe that the thickness of the hair in this undercoat is 6 times thinner than the strand of a human hair? In a year, a goat only produces 100-150 grams of this fleece, so no wonder it’s so pricey. The highest quality cashmere is produced in East Kashmir and Mongolia. However, it’s also produced in Iran, Afghanistan, Australia, US, and China, but this goat fleece is considered lower-grade and is rarely used by manufacturers of exclusive cashmere products.
After learning how difficult it is to extract this fleece and how little of it the poor, little goats produce, it makes me appreciate cashmere even more. One of the things that makes the lower-grade cashmere inferior is that regular wool is mixed in with the fleece, while the label can still officially claim that its 100% pure cashmere (a little deceiving don’t you think).
Of course to most of us it is difficult to differentiate between its quality simply by looking at it or feeling it. Even if this ability does improve with time, knowing with certainty whether the cashmere is pure is improbable. So what can we do to determine whether the cashmere is worth purchasing? Tip #1: My biggest advice is just to go with its feel. Do you sense any itchiness in the material? If so, be conscious of what that means. In my personal experience with cashmere of different brands I’ve noticed that they vary widely in the way they look after repeated wear and a few dry-cleanings. To give you an idea I have compiled a list (from best to worst) of what I have found.
- Loro Piana (amazing)
- Dolce & Gabbana (amazing)
- Bamford England (amazing)
- Inhabit (amazing)
- AKRIS Punto (amazing)
- Autumn Cashmere (amazing)
- Michael Kors (great)
- Alisha Levine (great)
- iisli (good)
- Marciano (questionable)
- Julie & Jack (questionable)
- Beth Bowley (questionable)
- Club Monaco (questionable)
- Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent (would not recommend)
- Dex Luxury (would not recommend)
Basically, after considering the list for a few seconds a definite pattern begins to emerge. The higher-up the list, the more expensive the items tend to be. This brings me to tip #2: when buying cashmere, its original retail price is usually an accurate indicator of the purity of the cashmere. Tip #3: just because the tag says 100% cashmere does not mean that it’s pure.
I am going to quickly comment on the dresses in the video because this is getting a bit long. For the first dress, by Alisha Levine, I mentioned that I would accessorize it with a long chain necklace. Imagine wearing it with a tiny chain or a small necklace over the collar, it wouldn’t work because it would get lost in the fabric and look out of place.
The second dress, by Autumn Cashmere, can work with a belt only if you place it right on the lower horizontal line, in which case it will look like a tiny skirt in the bottom and would be kind of cool. However, it’s difficult to keep it in place and I prefer the necklace for that reason.
The third dress has an elaborate sequin design in the front and it would be wise to keep the accessories to a minimum so as not to overdo it.
Tip #4: Cashmere dresses are worth the investment because they are easy to wear, cozy, comfy, and look fabulous. They are the kind of pieces that love you back by keeping you warm and happy.
Thanks for reading.