Cashmere - The Real Cost
Mass Market Cashmere
Once a highly expensive and exclusive item, pure cashmere was the reserve of the luxury consumer but through uncontrolled demand, mass breeding of cashmere goats and lack of sustainable practice we now see high street giants retailing pure cashmere knitwear from as low as 59.00 euros. How do their suppliers meet these high volume demands on a fibre that is increasingly limited and expensive to produce?
Provenance & Production
A large majority of cashmere goats live on the plateaus surrounding the Gobi Desert, which stretches from Northern China to Mongolia. The bitter winters here force the goats to grow a double fleece that insulates them from temperatures as low as minus forty degrees.
It is the downy under coat of this double fleece that forms the cashmere, with the very softest hair coming from the neck and throat area of female goats. Something that adds to the challenge of growing high quality cashmere is the additional expense of grazing herds sufficiently, which enables good coat growth. Even when all these conditions are met it takes on average one year for four goats to produce enough hair for one sweater.
To avoid these long lead times shepherds are increasing their herds which strips the grassland leading to desertification and eventually undernourished goats and inferior grade cashmere. Add to that the environmental issues of climate change and the strain on the land becomes more.
Choosing quantity over quality to meet the demands of high volume orders will shrink quality cashmere supplies, reduce animal welfare standards, exploit pastors and damage the environment. So, what can be done to protect the global cashmere supply chain?
At Tactile Trends we believe sustainable cashmere farming starts with two things; considering the herding communities and establishing a ‘farm less - farm well’ mindset that fully supports their livelihood and educating the general public on the supply chain implications of an outsize cashmere demand.
Below Tactile Trends detail four companies that are taking responsibility for the education of their customers and/or supporting the cashmere supply chain.
Luxury brand Burberry have identified ‘protecting their cashmere supply’ as one of their environmental goals for 2017. Below is an excerpt from 'Build our Culture' on their company strategy page.
''Cotton, leather and cashmere are three of the Company’s key raw materials, representing around 30% of its greenhouse gas (‘GHG’) emissions. Burberry focused on improving the traceability and sourcing of
these materials, partnering closely with supply chain and industry stakeholders. Key steps included joining the Better Cotton Initiative to promote sustainable cotton farming beyond Burberry’s farmer engagement programme in Peru, spearheading an initiative to engage key industry stakeholders in sustainable grassland management in cashmere farming communities in Mongolia, and actively promoting environmental best practice and innovation at leather tanneries.''
Online shopping site Everlane are committed to ‘radical transparency ‘and their motto is
This approach is vital if we are to move forward with educating consumers about provenance and production. Why shouldn’t consumers have direct contact with makers? Click here to learn about the cashmere/wool factory Everlane work with.
Loro Piana is the largest cashmere manufacturer in the western world and have a strong sense of responsibility for the care of their cashmere supply chain piloting the cashmere breeding programme ‘The Loro Piana Method’ back in 2009 which has seen selective goat breeding resulting in a smaller heard that produces higher annual volumes and quality.
June Cashmere sell 100% cashmere sustainably sourced from small farms in Kyrgystan, Central Asia and are actively investing in the communities where the cashmere is gathered facilitating training sessions and teaching best practices for increasing the quantity and quality of cashmere fibres.
Lets support companies that are thinking of the bigger picture when it comes to our supply chains especially our beautiful and ancient cashmere industry.