Cashmere can cause shrinkage in sweaters, and it can also lead to poor body shape. However, there are quality, sustainable brands that are reasonably priced.
Mmm, cashmere. Cashmere is so soft and fluffy. It’s as warm as toast and as light as a bubble bath. What’s not love? It’s quite a lot. We are actually doing it wrong. This is quite surprising, as cashmere is one of the most successful high-street fashion fabrics of all time. Cashmere has been a status symbol, and a brand name. Cashmere is loved by everyone, just like Chanel No 5 or Haagen-Dazs. The killer shelf appeal of a stack of marshmallow-soft sweaters, in M&M colours, as a weakness has enabled retailers to encourage our cashmere addiction.
Cashmere can pose a problem for sustainability and animal welfare. The yarn that was once valued for its durability has been taken over by fast fashion. This causes unnecessary suffering to goats and creates inferior sweaters that lose or shrink in shape. Cheap cashmere, which is made from very few ingredients, is transformed into something that looks great but is not substantial.
Tim Ewington, cofounder of Aethel’s cashmere label says that while fluffy may feel good, it can also mask weaknesses. Fluffiness can disguise shorter cashmere hairs that are less well-spun and more heavily dyed. It hides the fact that the sweater contains less cashmere, as fluffy cashmere can look bulky even though it doesn’t weigh much.
His advice? Ask about ply. “Two-ply is a good sweater for mid-weight.” You can also bring your kitchen scales with you to the shop and weigh the sweater before buying it. This is crazy? This is a serious purchase. (Aethel’s Big Hug knit is a substantial 700g.)
In 2020, the Good Cashmere Standard was established to protect farmers and goats whose traditional methods are threatened by modern fashion. Sometimes, the belly hair of goats is combed before they have reached their natural molting period. This causes distress and can cause distress to them. The GCS gives approval only to ethical farms.
Barbara Horspool is the White Company’s clothing director. She says that all animals raised for their yarn must be taken care of. “The livelihoods in remote communities are dependent on this trade so it’s important to educate and work with farmers.” She believes responsibly sourced cashmere makes a good investment. It can be hand washed or machine washed at 30C. This will make it last forever.
Both Cos and Boden, both signatories to the GCS, are great places to find high-quality cashmere. As a spokesperson for Cos pointed out, longevity is not just about manufacturing but also about design. Look for timeless pieces that are less trendy. You can’t go wrong when you have a charcoal turtleneck from Cos, PS145.
Boden’s director of product development and buying, Cristina Gilkes, says that the cashmere is tested in real-life clothes to ensure it has the right balance between durability and the frothiness customers are used to. The PS90 tank top is a versatile multi-season layering piece.
Aethel sometimes hears from customers that their sweater doesn’t feel as soft as candy floss. They also hear feedback that sweaters are durable and keep their shape. Ewington advises cashmere buyers to “Weigh the item in your hands, feel the elbows, cuffs, and ask yourself if you believe it will last.” This is how cashmere’s famed feel-good factor feels.