Are you familiar with the favorite cashmere sweater you have? When you wear it, it feels so soft and buttery against your skin. When you take care of it, you know the sweater will last forever. And it's warm! It's a fantastic garment all in all. And it was meant to be because it cost a lot!
Have you ever wondered why they cost so much? It's soft, and it wears very well, but there are other knits and fabrics nearby. Cashmere has also been synonymous with luxury as the rich and famous fabric for a very long time. But is that why women's cashmere jumpers are so costly?
That goat is probably stomping around somewhere in Mongolia or along the border of Pakistan and India, from a Kashmir goat to be exact. Suppose your sweater is of excellent quality. If it's a lower standard, Iran, Turkey, or even the United States could call it home.
Cashmere is made from the under the hair of the Kashmir goat. The goat's best underwear is found on the lower half of the body and the goat's belly. This hair harvesting is not like shoring a sheep, but outside of China, India, and Pakistan, that's what happens.
Combing the goat is the traditional harvest method so that only the fine under hairs are cut, not the coarse top layer of fur. Believe it or not, it can take up to three days for a single goat to comb. Each goat yields around 150 grams of under hair. That amounts to less than 5.5 ounces. By contrast, depending on the breed, a sheep can produce 100 to 300 pounds of wool per year. Do you see where a relatively scarce product is cashmere?
It is then de-haired when this cashmere "wool" is collected, where the long hair that was lost during the harvesting process is separated from the under hair. Then the resulting hair is washed, dyed, spun into yarn, or woven into cloth.
In the past, this usually meant that the raw product would be transported to Scotland or Italy, both renowned for their excellent spinning and weaving industries. However, China has invested heavily in technology, and a large portion of the harvest is processed by the Chinese today.
So think about that adorable goat (or two) that had his belly combed for your enjoyment the next time you put on that cashmere jumpers. Cashmere stones and Kashmir goats, too.