That was the question I asked when I was first introduced to pure cashmere at the King Deer Cashmere factory in Baotou, Inner Mongolia in 2008.
I was on an exotic vacation to explore “where buses can’t go”! I had taken an overnight train from Beijing to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, to be met by a small van which then drove me to the rolling hills and lush green grass of Huitengxile where I “checked in” to my yurt.
The entire trip into Inner Mongolia had been planned for about a year, and was intended for the sole purpose of riding horses in the grasslands, much like Genghis Khan had centuries before! And to enjoy the local cuisine, including the milk tea, made with mare’s milk. I did all that and had an amazing time! In fact, I could write a story about those adventures!
After a few days this exploration came to its end and I made my way back to a more modern world, the city of Baotou. It was here that a friend first shared with me that Inner Mongolia produced the best cashmere in the world. Seeing that I was unsure of his claim, an explanation followed.
Inner Mongolia is home to indigenous cashmere goats technically known as Capra circus laniger. These goats live in the harsh, cold, dry mountainous areas where in the winter, temperatures can drop to 50 degrees celsius or below. To survive, these goats grow an undercoat of soft hair, which is quality cashmere fibre.
Then, in the spring when the goats no longer need the extra insulation, they enter into a molting season and the soft undercoat is hand-combed and collected. This soft undercoat is considered the world’s finest cashmere and cannot be collected from goats that live in more moderate climates. Hence in moderate climates the goats lose their ability to grow this soft undercoat and ultimately produce a course cashmere fiber.
After convincing me that I may actually be in the land of premiere cashmere, I managed to get a private tour of the King Deer Cashmere factory.
The factory was impressive, technologically advanced, and much to my surprise they were making cashmere clothing for many of the luxury name brands we are accustomed to seeing in the U.S. and abroad. Immediately I felt like I had discovered something…”so this is where all of those luxury cashmere sweaters are coming from?”
But what struck me most was the soft feel of this cashmere – much softer than the cashmere I had touched and worn over the years, and much more expensive. A peek inside their product description tag read “The products are made of excellent goat cashmere from Inner Mongolia, known as ‘fiber jade‘.” I had never heard of ‘fiber jade‘. Finally, I was beginning to understand.
Much of what I had come to know as cashmere – meaning pure cashmere – was anything but. What many of us believe to be cashmere is actually a blend…cashmere and something else. And frequently, a little bit of cashmere and lot of something else, like sheep wool or synthetic fibers…yes, synthetic fibers!
According to the Cashmere And Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute, an international trade association, the U.S. market is flooded with garments claiming to be pure cashmere, but in reality are not. Mislabeled cashmere has tarnished the reputation of the product and misled many consumers. Why all this mislabeling? Because this renewable resource is limited in quantity, labor intensive and Mother Nature dependent. Yes, the best quality cashmere is expensive.
To sum it all up, a cashmere goat yields an average of four to six ounces of fiber annually. And as you might expect that is how cashmere is sold, by weight. With that in mind, you will notice all of the cashmere accessories carried by Cashmere & Pearls includes the cashmere weight in grams as part of the product description.
At Cashmere & Pearls, we work directly with suppliers in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, who have an outstanding reputation for quality. They are direct suppliers for luxury cashmere product lines.
Genuine cashmere will be expensive, but worth the investment! That’s why we believe if you can only have one scarf, it should be cashmere. If you can only have one necklace, it should be pearls.
Are you in the market to make a cashmere purchase and don’t want to be misled into buying a synthetic or low-quality product? Make sure you visit our online store where we carry only the finest quality cashmere accessories.
If you are interested in learning more about Cashmere, please visit cashmere.org.