One Sweater Requires the Wool of Approximately Three Cashmere Goats
The Rare and Valuable Allure of Cashmere
Often dubbed as the "gem of fibers", cashmere is derived from a breed of goat native to the harsh highlands of Central Asia. These regions undergo severe temperature shifts, with winters plunging to 30 degrees below zero and summers often exceeding 40 degrees. To weather these extreme winters, cashmere goats grow a warm, lightweight undercoat, which serves as the raw material for our cashmere sweaters. As spring arrives, this undercoat naturally sheds and is replaced by a lighter summer coat. The cashmere we use is harvested from this natural shedding, thereby ensuring a symbiotic relationship with the cashmere goats without inflicting any harm on them.
How much of this cashmere undercoat is needed to create our sweaters and stoles? The cashmere is raked out using a tool similar to a rake. Each cashmere goat provides approximately 300 grams of wool, often referred to as "earth hair". This process differs from sheep shearing; it's a more laborious task taking roughly an hour per goat. I had the opportunity to experience combing the fine undercoat of cashmere goats in Inner Mongolia, a major cashmere-producing region in China. The task was so labor-intensive that my arms ached after just five minutes.
When spring arrives, this demanding task of combing continues, making it a challenging period for the farmers. However, it also brings joy, a rewarding payoff for a year's worth of effort. The combed wool is then packed into large bags and sold to specialist traders.
This "earth hair" contains not only the soft undercoat but also harder hairs, prickly hairs, and even dirt accumulated over the year. The wool is first cleaned by sifting to remove the sand and mud, followed by hand-picking to remove small plant branches and leaves. After washing, only the undercoat is removed through a unique cashmere processing method, which reduces the initial volume of wool by about half.
Of the undercoat, the long, high-quality fibers are used for knitted products, the shorter ones for woven fabrics such as coats and suits, and the relatively thicker, shorter fibers are used for blankets. It's said that the knitted products utilize the highest quality and most expensive raw materials.
The 300 grams of wool harvested from a single goat eventually reduces to approximately 180 grams. Of this, about 140 grams are used for each Angel Stole, implying that one stole is made from the wool of a single cashmere goat. For a women's sweater, wool from about two goats is used, while for a men's sweater, three goats' worth is needed.
Knowing these facts gives you a renewed understanding of the rarity and value of cashmere. Holding a cashmere product, made with such care and love, makes the experience of wearing cashmere knitwear even more special.