A lot of the times, we don’t put a lot of thought into the clothes we wear. Where does the material come from? Whose hands were involved? Cashmere is one of the most beloved fabrics used among the top designers and is a favorite among retailers and consumers. It feels great on your skin, keeps you warm and doesn’t fade or stretch easily (when you take proper care of it). As with most things we buy, quality should determine pricing, but that hasn’t been the case with cashmere.
In case you’re wondering, the name comes from a breed of goats that come from a region near India and Pakistan called Kashmir. The most popular sources of cashmere is based out of central Asia (specifically Mongolia and China), where the luxury material serves as livelihood for many families. Cashmere is generally produced by the undercoat hair of goats. The live goat is contained while the hair is combed in order to produce the fabric which is poplar for its warmth and smooth feeling on the skin. It take approximately 3 to 5 goats to produce one average-sized cashmere sweater.
Because the material is so popular, the demand for cashmere is constant – but at what cost?
The growing demand also means taking a toll on the environment. When there’s a bigger demand, herders make sure they increase their goat population. Well, goats eat…a lot! They consume the grasslands and plants to the point where grass cannot even grow in those areas no more. Not to mention, springs and wells are drying out in addition to the unusual weather patterns that have taken place around the globe. Once it’s taken from the goat, the cashmere is woven or spun by hand – which is why the product has such high quality. When the size of a goat herd gets larger, the quality of cashmere falls and the environment suffers as a result.
There’s been discussion on how to possibly solve this problem; some herders have expressed its better to have smaller sized herds in order to maintain cashmere quality and keep the demand at the same time. Does that mean getting rid of goats that won’t be needed? How will the environment be affected? There are programs being initiated in which everyone and the goats will benefit; conservation organizations are focused on keeping the goats intact while maintaining the value of cashmere. These same organizations make sure the herder is taken care of by connecting them with companies who will pay good dollar for their product.
So the next time you go shopping for cashmere, think about where your dollars are going. Your money doesn’t just go to the quality of this product, it also benefits the makers and helps sustain wildlife. The needs that come as a result for high demand occur in the now, which requires a higher price for quality. In other words, pay now and everyone and the environment benefits later.