Sustainable Fashion Cashmere

Much of the cashmere in circulation is not sustainable. Here’s why and where to find the “good” one.

What makes a product a luxury item? Often the scarce availability of the raw material. Like cashmere, a precious fiber not only because it is ultra soft, but can also be produced only in very small quantities. Yet almost everyone today has a cashmere sweater in the drawer: the shelves and e-commerce of any brand, including the big fast fashion chains, are full of them, and it is possible to buy them at affordable prices. But satisfying such a market demand has a very high cost from an environmental point of view and upsets the millennial balance of the territories where this wool is produced. Because? What are the sustainable alternatives?

Cashmere, little but good
If brands have recently embraced greener solutions – from certified wool, from traditional shepherd communities, to recycled yarn, adopted by big names like Stella McCartney, Patagonia, Burberry and Gucci – it is because large-scale cashmere is not sustainable. . It was so until the fiber remained very precious and savored: used by a few luxury houses and obtained by combing once a year the Hircus goats, bred by nomadic shepherds for over 7500 years in the Sinkiang regions, in Tibet and Mongolia – from steppes on the border between Mongolia and China today comes 90 percent of the total fiber spread in the world.

Changpa, Tibetan population living in Changtang, Ladakh, India, one of the least populated areas on the planet. A cold desert where temperatures drop to -40 ° C where shepherds raise a goat breed that produces one of the finest cashmere in the world.Each animal produces only 100 to 200 grams of wool per season and about four goats are needed to make a sweater for the material to be excellent, the animal must be exposed to certain temperatures and follow a certain diet, so the breeders move with the flocks, living in symbiosis with the cattle in search of the best ground for grazing according to the seasons. and exposing yourself to the harshest climates.The fact that a certain number of cashmere goats in the area has always been matched by a greater number of sheep is further reducing the availability of raw materials: an ancient strategy that keeps the soil fertile, because the goats tear the root of the grass, sheep no.

Such a local production structure, linked to the climate and seasons and the harvesting of a few grams of fiber per year, does not allow for mass trade. Today there are nomadic shepherds, but they represent the minority and supply that niche of the luxury market that still makes use of quality raw materials, obtained in accordance with tradition.

The rest of the fiber on the market is of lower quality (categorized on four levels, from good to medium and low), obtained through the exponential increase in the number of flocks, which very often transform from nomadic to stationary, much more similar to classic western farms, where the mixture of livestock so precious for the territory is lost.
For farmers it is a race to see who sells more at the lowest price, conflicts within local communities have increased and the over-exploited land is undergoing a process of desertification, with 60 percent of pastures already dried up according to recent data from the Mongolian government..

The video that convinced H&M to abandon cashmere
Even the welfare of the animal is in danger, because the goats are subjected to continuous combing (according to the traditional method, wool is collected only in spring, when the animals change their hair) and also violent, as documented by the animal rights association Peta with a video that has prompted some companies to distance themselves from fiber and others to devise alternative solutions (the H&M Hennes & Mauritz group for example, after the release of the film declared that it will no longer use virgin material in the production chain at starting from 2020).

Under this drive, recycled cashmere was born, a flagship of Made in Italy developed and produced by Re-Verso ™: a group of historic Tuscan companies (Nuova Fratelli Boretti, Filpucci, Green Line A, Stelloni Collection by Mapel and Filatura C4 ) who have joined forces to regenerate noble fibers (including wool and camel) through an integrated, transparent and traceable system. This is how new quality yarns certified Grs (The Global Recycle Standard of Textile Exchange) are born.

Nadaam, on the other hand, is the sustainable cashmere brand founded in 2013 by Matthew Scanlan and Diederik Rijsemus, two guys who, during a trip to Mongolia, set up their direct-to-consumer business project: they buy casmere from the shepherds who raise goats in Mongolia, they work it, transform it into clothes and sell it directly to the end customer. In this way they eliminate the price increases due to the intermediate steps between farmers and retailers, so they can keep prices affordable and pay farmers fairly. FTC, a brand founded in 2003 by the Swiss Andreas Knezovic, also focuses on the highest quality of cashmere and ethically correct production. The brand has created a sustainable commerce network in the area which has also led to the construction of a school of over 1000 students to prevent young people from leaving the countryside.


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