Why Cashmere Is So Expensive

Cashmere is one of the most popular fibers in the world. Its fine wool is soft, it is lighter than wool and three times more insulating than wool.

 

It’s been a prized material for centuries, but its quality comes at a price, and a luxurious cashmere pullover can set you back more than $500. So why is it so expensive?

 

Cashmere doesn’t come from wool as you might think, it’s fine cashmere (goatwool) that comes from goats. These goats are found on the other side of the Himalayas, where temperatures can drop as much as 30 degrees, and their icy habitat means they develop very thick, warm coats.

 

What you see used to make clothes is not the outer layer of hair, but the super soft coat underneath it.

 

The raw material for the yarn we use, cashmere, comes from about 1.2 million goats, which are distributed in Outer Mongolia, China, and Afghanistan.

 

There’s a reason we need so many goats. A sheep can produce at least 3 kilograms of wool a year, while a cashmere goat can only produce about 200 grams.

 

Basically, every goat has that much cashmere. For a scarf, you use the cashmere of one goat, but for a sweater, you use the cashmere of five, eight, ten goats.

 

With so little production per goat, supply is severely limited, and fiber can only be collected once a year. When sheep are sheared, cashmere goats are usually brushed to remove the soft fur shed in the spring. Even if you’ve harvested the fiber, the usable weight will be halved once the oil, dirt, and thicker hairs are removed. Despite its popularity, cashmere accounts for only 0.5% of the world’s total wool production.

 

Once you have pure cashmere, processing it takes a lot of work. The fibers are first dyed the correct color and then inflated to prevent them from clumping together. The softness of cashmere means that it needs to be handled with care throughout the process. Any chemicals or excessive processing can damage the fibers.

 

Then, the fibers are combed, a process that causes the hair to disperse and arrange into sheets so that they can be spun into yarn. The quality of cashmere is determined by its fineness and length, a high quality cashmere individual hair can be as thin as 14 microns.

 

When it’s finally ready, this dyed and spun yarn can be used to make anything from jumpers to scarves.

 

When you’re making a cashmere scarf, everyone thinks it’s the simplest product in the world. Of course, when they come to the factory and see how it’s done, they realize that there’s actually a huge amount of work to be done, a huge amount of hands and skilled work to make this possible. So it’s definitely about people’s knowledge, about people’s skills, how you cultivate this very subtle fiber in the process.

 

Recently, cheap cashmere products have become very popular. They claim to be able to provide high quality cashmere at a lower price. Some may use slightly lower grade cashmere or different processing methods to make the final product more affordable, and while they are relatively cheap, they usually cost at least twice as much as wool.

 

There’s nothing in the world like cashmere. I mean, there are other precious fibers or other fine fibers, but cashmere has great properties. It’s very powerful. The weather is warm. It’s so soft that you can make anything with it, from very thick, strong, almost carpet-like products, to very thin, slender clothes. If you do find a very cheap product that claims to be cashmere, it may be too good to be true.

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