Cashmere fabric is shed down yearly from goats living in the dry highlands that stretch from northern China into Mongolia, surrounding the Gobi Desert. In order for these creatures to survive, they have coarse hair that repels the bad weather. Beneath that coat lies a much finer fiber, cashmere, which insulates these animals from the cold.
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This fiber is the sleekest, softest and luxurious natural fiber the world has ever seen and it requires the highest standards in order to process it. When spring comes and before the goat begins to molt, the shepherds along with their families, begin the arduous work of combing the precious under fleece from their goats. The combing season, particularly, lasts between three to four weeks; however, the amounts produced are quite small – approximately 200-250 grams per goat. This will then be followed with the collection of raw cashmere in three base colors – namely, brown, grey and white. Moreover, it is sorted using hands, so as to remove impurities. More often than not, the fiber undergoes a treatment to remove dust, and then gently washed. And because it consists of coarse guard hair, it has to be separated. Once washing is done and the hair is removed, its weight is reduced by as much has 50%. Nonetheless, only that can this fiber be deemed as top quality.
The History of Cashmere Fabric
The term “Cashmere” comes from the Indian word “Kashmir,” which is a historic region of harsh and mountainous in the northern part of the country. In fact, most materials from Tibet are produced in Kashmir as cashmere. It is believed that around 50,000 craftsmen are needed to weave cashmere products during the 16th century in India.
On the other hand, during the Roman Empire, only royalty families are able to afford the pleasures of cashmere. It was Napoleon who started a fad for the fabric’s shawls when he gave his second wife, Empress Eugenie, seventeen of them. A celebrated “ring shawl” of style, Empress Eugenie who made cashmere fashionable Legend has it that her shawls were so fine; they could be drawn through a ring.
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Fast forward to the end of 19th century, Scottish manufacturer Joseph Dawson invented a machine that could perform the delicate separation without damaging the soft fibers. He became successful, thus opened to the commercialization of the fabric. Also, due to innovation, the cashmere manufacturing moved to Scotland where the beginning of a new century cashmere products started.
In the past few years, the center moved to China, which is the the original producing area of cashmere. And now, the country has become the main exporter of cashmere textile after introducing lots of Japanese advanced technologies and equipment, while perfecting the quality controlling system.
Why Cashmere Is Often Expensive
Basically, this sewing fabric comes from goats living in the high and dry plateaus surrounding the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China. And since the environment there is quite harsh, only a few cashmere goats exist. It is worth noting that in a year, cashmere can be produced between 10,000 to 12,000 tons all over the world. But in China, the production accounts for 70% of the world’s totality. A goat only produces about 50 - 80 grams washed cashmere annually. It means that a piece of common cashmere sweater consumes the cashmere from 5goats in one year.
Furthermore, products made from cashmere fabrics tend to be expensive because of the exiguity of raw material, complicated processing course and physical work, among others.