As early as the 16th century, the production of the noble wool began in the Indian-Pakistani border province of Kashmir: cashmere wool is made from the undercoat of the cashmere goat. Today, cashmere wool is considered one of the finest natural products in the fashion industry.
Fashion lovers appreciate cashmere not only for its softness: cashmere sweaters are extremely light and warm at the same time. In addition, cashmere seems to be immune to odors.
What’s the history behind the precious natural fiber?
When it comes to the production of cashmere, the northern Indian city of Srinagar takes a central role: Srinagar is home to a great handicraft culture, which is closely related to the processing of cashmere.
The art of cashmere weaving began in the early 16th century: The first Mughal of India Zahir ad-Din Muhammad Babur promoted Kashmir weaving. The province of Kashmir took a central role in weaving the noble wool because of its favorable location on the silk route.
Cashmere fabric did not spill over into Europe until the second half of the 17th century: Cashmere fabric reached Europe through European trading establishments in India.
The cashmere goat
The cashmere goat is native to the high mountains of the Himalayas and the Pamirs. At an altitude of over 4,000 meters, the temperatures in winter can drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius. The cashmere goat adapts to these temperatures with a special fur: The precious undercoat from the cashmere goat, from which the cashmere wool is obtained.
One goat gives about 100 grams of usable cashmere wool after one winter: Depending on the size of the sweater, the wool of two to six cashmere goats is used to make one cashmere sweater.
The high material cost is the reason for the relatively high price of cashmere products.
As soon as winter is over and it becomes too warm for the cashmere goat, it rubs itself against stones or bushes to get rid of the excess hair. In the process, the goats leave behind tufts of wool: these are collected by local mountain farmers. This procedure is especially common in the mountains, where cashmere goats live wild.
Not all cashmere goats live in the wild. If there were only wild cashmere goats, the cashmere demand of the world market could hardly be saturated: Mongolia is home to nearly 80% of the world’s cashmere goat population. This is where the tamed goats are bred. For the local rural population in the vast country, cashmere breeding is one of the most important sources of income.
The Myth of Cashmere
Until today cashmere is surrounded by a myth: often cashmere fashion comes from luxurious designer brands. If you look behind the façade of this myth, this is what remains: mainly because of its softness and lightness, there are many lovers of the luxurious fabric. Airing the garment can remove odors, hand washing is necessary only in case of heavy soiling.
Hardly anyone thinks of taking a pure wool sweater out of the closet on a cool summer evening: With cashmere, it’s a different story. Due to good thermal regulation, a cashmere sweater can be worn even in mild temperatures.
Cover picture: A cashmere troyer, © Simon von Ludwig, all rights reserved