Cashmere, sometimes referred to as pashmina, is one of the most precious kinds of wool fabrics. It is often called 'soft gold' or 'diamond fibre' for its outstanding warmth, softness and light weight. What makes it so special is its finest yarn: the average diameter of high-grade cashmere fiber is under 19 microns (1/10th the diameter of a human hair), while that of pashmina yarn is even lower.
Such impressive properties made cashmere highly favoured both in Asia and Europe since the Middle Ages, and this fabric is still regarded as an attribute of wealth. However, do all the cashmere fabrics offered on the market today truly deserve to be called luxury? Let's define the criteria of cashmere luxuriousness, and learn some simple ways to make sure you have spent your money on the desired exclusive fabric.
What is Cashmere?
Cashmere fabric is a wool cloth woven from a Kashmir goat down. It has a number of outstanding features which nature can largely be explained by the severe climatic conditions of that animal areal — the mountain regions of Tibet, India, Mongolia and Iran, where the average altitude reaches as high as 3,000-4,500 m above the sea level.
The typical features of cashmere are legendary. It is the ideal combination of warmth, light weight and comfort, all making this wool sort superior to the rest. Not surprisingly, the fibres made from Kashmir goat down are known to be extremely soft. It also feels very tender against your skin, as its fibres have a bumpy shape.
Types of Clothing
Given such precious properties, cashmere is applied for a wide range of clothing — sweaters, shawls, suits, cardigans, blazers, coats, ponchos, and much more. There’re no gender limitations in using this fabric — both men and women highly value cashmere wool.
What Makes Cashmere Luxury
At this point, you might be quite embarrassed with the name of this post. If cashmere is so awesome, what can be its luxury version about? A fair question, apparently. The thing is, even having that precious properties, luxury cashmere fabrics vary in their quality. There’re several factors that influence the way it looks and feels:
- The Kashmir goat breed, which affects the yarn quality. It is generally accepted that as the most precious breeds of a Kashmir goat live in the mountain regions with harsh weather, the longest and softest yarn comes from there. That was true several decades ago, however, as the selection genetics advanced, the geographical factor has become less relevant. In terms of hair thickness and length, Kashmir yarn is divided by the grades A, B and С:The thinner and longer the fibre, the softer and more tender the fabric is. And more expensive essentially as well. How thin is 14-micron yarn though? The comparison with a human hair is quite illustrative here, as the latter is about 70-100 microns. The figures speak it all. The grade A cashmere is amazingly smooth and long-lasting, it is applied to luxury suits and coats. The grade B one is quite close to that level too, and a bit cheaper. In contrast, the grade С is way coarser and more prone to pilling, which excludes it from the list of luxury cashmere sorts.
The finest yarn comes from Changthangi (Kashmir Pashmina) cashmere goat and reaches 12-13 μm in its diameter, with average fibre length between 55-60 mm. This rarest yarn accounts for less than 0.1% of global cashmere production.
- Grade A is 14 to 15.5 microns;
- Grade B is 16 to 19 microns;
- Grade С is about 30 microns.
- Production process. It is Mongolia that traditionally takes the largest market share of cashmere fabrics. This country has started cashmere exporting as early as in the 13 th century, in the period of the Mongolian empire. However, the world’s most luxurious cashmere fabrics are created in Italy and Scotland these days, by such brands as Luigi Colombo, Ermenegildo Zegna, Agnona and Holland & Sherry, to name just a few. These renowned wool fabric manufacturers enjoy the perfect reputation both for applying advanced high-tech machinery and for their weavers’ craftsmanship, resulting in impeccable quality. This fact, however, has nothing to do with diminishing the role of Mongolia in the cashmere production, as the fibres of the most precious Kashmir goat breeds are supplied to Europe from there.
- Blends with other noble fibres. We put emphasis not on the word “blends”, but on “noble” here. The presence of this parameter in the list doesn’t mean, that 100% grade A cashmere is less luxury than its blended version. It is just an indicator of luxuriousness that you will hardly ever meet in case of the cheaper grade С, which can be blended with synthetics, cotton or viscose. On the contrary, the inclusions of mink, vicuña or silk ensure ultimate comfort in wearing any type of clothing you opt for.
How to Identify a Genuine Cashmere Fabric
- The true cashmere fabric contains denser threads along with down.
- Put the tested cloth on your palm. If your skin is visible through the fabric, it means that there’s little percentage of cashmere in its content.
- Stretch the two edges of the cloth and let them go — the genuine fabric should contract back to its initial shape.
- Pay attention to the colour. The darker down is cheaper than that in lighter shades, however, it can be a better indicator of purely cashmere fibres. This statement is based on low colourability of goat’s down, that’s why the fabrics with natural tinges are regarded as most precious. In case your fabric features a light tinge, it is made either from white down — which is the sign of luxury, or from the blend with sheep’s wool, silk or polyester — which is... Well, you know what.
- Beware of lustre. Cashmere is always matt, that’s why in case your fabric features a lustrous effect, it most probably contains silk, viscose or synthetic fibres.
- Low price is a very suspicious sign too. The original cashmere of precious Kashmir goat breeds is very rare, and by no means can it cost low.