Cashmere is one of my favourite textiles to wear. It’s soft, it’s warm, and it’s a natural fibre. I have a number of garments made from it – gloves, scarves, jumpers, and this beautiful ribbed cardigan. But did you know that cashmere has a high planetary impact? From the way that cashmere goats are reared, to the way the textile is processed, it can be costly in more ways than one.
I’ve been wanting to write about sustainable cashmere for a long while now, and after connecting with Lotti Blades-Barrett, Founder of Second Cashmere, I finally have the chance! Read on for more info on how to enjoy cashmere sustainably, and find the best knits…
Is Cashmere Better Than Wool?
Cashmere is a more sought-after textile than wool because of its fine, naturally soft, non-itchy properties. However, it takes approximately three to five cashmere goats to create a single jumper. For these reasons, cashmere commands a much higher price tag than wool.
When it comes to the environmental impact of cashmere, it is also much higher than wool. That’s partly due to the smaller yield from each animal, and partly due to fact that most of the world’s cashmere is sourced from Mongolia and China, where arable land is being threatened by climate change and desertification. With more extreme weather to come, the price of cashmere is set to rise even further.
Cashmere Grades, Explained
Did you know, cashmere comes in different grades? This recently-learned little nugget of fashion knowledge has helped me to understand how high street stores are able to sell 100% cashmere garments for as little as £18 for a scarf or £62 for a jumper.
Cashmere is graded by the fineness of the goat hair. This is measured in microns, ranging from 14 microns (the finest hairs) to 30 microns (the least fine).
- Grade A: 14 to 15.5 microns. This is the longest and finest goat hair, making a better quality garment that will retain its shape over time and washing.
- Grade B: 16 to 19 microns. This is mid-range cashmere, and can feel a little coarser than Grade A.
- Grade C: 30 microns. This is the lowest quality cashmere, and is used where cost savings are more important than quality.
As a shopper, it’s almost impossible to shop by cashmere grades, as this information is rarely shared on clothes labels. However, the price of a garment is a good indicator. Or, even better, the feel!
Looking For Sustainable Cashmere? Go Second-Hand
When it comes to sourcing cashmere garments sustainably, my top recommendation is to go second-hand. (You know how much I love second-hand shopping!) With cashmere having such a high planetary impact, and expensive price tags to match, second-hand cashmere solves both problems in one swoop.
Second Cashmere is my favourite place to browse when looking for pre-loved garments. Lotti and the Second Cashmere team handpick 100% cashmere garments, restore and reinvent these, and resell them at a very reasonable price. Their mission is to create zero waste luxury collections that don’t cost the earth, and they do it very well! This isn’t just circularity, this is cashmere circularity…
With cashmere womenswear, menswear, accessories, and homeware collections, it’s well worth bookmarking the Second Cashmere site. Here’s a little edit of my favourite items currently available:
Second Cashmere x Curiously Conscious Edit
How To Care For Cashmere
Cashmere is a commitment. Caring for your knitwear is incredibly important, and cashmere likes to be treated like wardrobe royalty. In my wardrobe, I have two cashmere jumpers that I’ve been wearing religiously since 2018. I’ve kept these in tip-top condition by looking after them properly.
Here’s a quick checklist of ways to care for cashmere and keep it in excellent condition:
- Wear garments under cashmere (if you can). To reduce the frequency of washes, I like to wear t-shirts under my cashmere jumpers as standard.
- When it come to washing cashmere, be sure to hand wash your knits. And I don’t mean the ‘hand wash’ function on your washing machine. I mean giving your knits a nice soak in lukewarm water, with cashmere washing detergent mixed in. Leave to soak for 15-30 minutes, and then gently rinse. Do not wring out the water. Instead, press it out.
- Dry garments flat. Do not skip this step! Drying cashmere garments flat is very important, as the weight of the water in the garment can stretch and ruin the shape if left hanging. I use an A-shaped airer to dry garments flat, and leave this in my bath. Some pieces take up to 48 hours to dry, but it’s definitely worth it!
- Store garments in an air-tight box or clothes bag. Finally, be sure to store your knits properly. After all that work, you don’t want moths to come and spoil them! I like to store my garments in a garment bag in my wardrobe, but if you’re in a pinch, a zipped-up suitcase can do the trick.
Be Sure To Bookmark Second Cashmere
If you’re looking for high quality cashmere items without the cost (to you or the Earth!), I recommend bookmarking Second Cashmere. And if you ever need your own garments repairing, check out their repair service too! I hope you enjoy wearing them as much as I do mine.