When I say “our” cashmere, I mean that of all the players in Mongolia’s first sustainable cashmere chain, of which we are proud to be the standard bearer in France.
Many cashmere professionals explain that the best cashmere comes from China. We are going to explain you why we think that the best cashmere comes from our sustainable cashmere chain in Mongolia (outer).
The only sustainable certified chain
The Union of Sustainable Cashmere Cooperatives is the world’s leading sustainable cashmere chain. The program brings together 25 certification criteria that herders must meet in order for their cashmere to be certified. The main axes are based on :
– The preservation of biodiversity and landscape through precise pasture management
– The training of herders
– The free life of animals and their welfare
– Vaccination of livestock
– Combing the fibre (not shearing) to leave an isothermal layer on the goats to cope with the cold.
– The guarantee of a fair income for the herders.
This programme was initiated in 2014 and today brings together 350 families of herders grouped together within the Union’s cooperatives.
The preserving of nomadic culture
Mongolian culture is synonymous with nomadism. Herders move their yurt 2 to 3 times a year in the immensity of the landscapes of a country 3.5 times larger than France. These families live in self-sufficiency with their herd in extreme conditions (temperatures drop to -50°C in winter). Far from our western way of life, living in such conditions means accepting the risk that at any moment a fatal accident could happen. Focusing on the essentials: love for one’s family, solidarity among a whole people, the good health of one’s livestock and the preservation of resources.
The Mongolian steppes are a fragile ecosystem that faces many threats: climatic disasters, the development of the mining industry and overgrazing. In order to address these threats, the Sustainable Kashmir Programme was initiated and supported by the European Union and the French Ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs.
Healthy goats in the wild to produce the best cashmere wool
In Mongolia, animals live in complete freedom. Herders working of the Union are committed to preserving the flora by permanently rotating grazing areas and limiting the number of goats per herder. They are trained in sustainable animal breeding for the benefit of all, in particular by working on limiting the number of animals per herd.hThe whole approach consists of focusing on quality rather than quantity.
The goats eat more than 100 different species of grass throughout the year and travel many miles every day. Healthy goats, stronger to face the winter, are also goats that make high-quality wool.
Combing and not shearing
At spring, the wool harvest is the culmination of a whole year’s work for the farmers. It is also a stressful stage for the goats. In the Union, the goats are combed and not shorn. And that makes a major difference because combing allows :
– To avoid injuring the animal
– To preserve the length and integrity of the fibres
– To harvest the cleaner fibres
– To leave the duvet on the goats in order to preserve them from the still low temperatures.
Selective fibre harvesting
Usually at harvest time, all the cashmere is mixed and bundled into bales, the only concern is to separate the wools by colour.
Within the Union and throughout the entire chain up to the spinning mill, we control traceability and separate the fibres at harvest by category: color, length and fineness. These fibres are then dehaired and spun separately. Thus we guarantee perfect traceability to ensure the purity of our cashmere wools.
The wool from young goats is the highest quality, the Q1: the fibres are the finest (less than 15 microns) and the longest (36 to 41 mm). Next comes the wool of the females and then the males.
The pure, naturally fine and long clean fibre.
The work of the Union’s herders allows us to collect a high quality raw cashmere, free of most impurities, unwanted hair and dandruff.
After the raw cashmere is sorted by hand, the dehairing process consists of mechanically transforming the raw cashmere into a fibre ready to be spun. Usually the cashmere has to pass through a succession of 9 to 12 dehairing machines to obtain the expected result. Our sustainable cashmere only goes through 6 machines, again preserving the quality of the fibre thanks to the cleanliness of the harvested cashmere.
In general, 1 kg of raw cashmere makes it possible to obtain 500 gr of dehairing cashmere, i. e. 50% of loss.
But with a cleaner and better quality raw fibre, it is possible to increase this percentage. During the dehairing stage, monitoring is carried out on site by the Union’s cashmere herders themselves to ensure traceability and the quality of the sustainable cashmere in this crucial stage, as the different qualities of cashmere are usually mixed together.
It also happens that some manufacturers recover some of the fibres normally discarded during dehairing and mix them during washing and finishing in order to maximise quantities at the expense of quality. This is a key explanation for understanding how a 100% cashmere sweater can be sold for less than €100 on the market. And this is possible while giving the impression of preserving quality thanks to the finishing and intensive use of chemicals. Indeed, it is not always easy to see the difference between 2 cashmere sweaters sold at very different prices. The difference is often more obvious after a few laundries…
The valorization of the 3 natural colours
We usually find cashmere sweaters in all colors. Cashmere sweaters are available for all tastes and styles. To dye cashmere, you have to start with the white fiber, because there are naturally 3 colours of cashmere wool: white, grey and brown with of course all the nuances of each goat. White cashmere is therefore the most highly requested colour to be able to dye it on the whole colour palette.
We also want to highlight grey and brown, because we believe that the less the fibre is treated and dyed, the better. Moreover, the intrinsic quality of a cashmere depends on its micronage and the length of its fibre.
The finishing stage (washing and dyeing) is crucial to the final result of the product. The poorer the quality of the fibre, the greater the use of chemicals to “hide the misery”. And it’s true that chemicals can do incredible things. But what happens to all these chemicals when they leave the factory, but also on our skin? What is the state of health of the workers?
We think that the real luxury is to wear the best fabric; the purest, the least processed, the one that preserves the intrinsic qualities of the fibre.
To sum up, what makes the quality of a cashmere garment?
In addition to the quality and technicality of the knitting, the number of threads used…, the true quality of a cashmere garment is elaborated at all stages, starting, as a priority, with the breeding of goats to obtain naturally the best quality of fibre.
Then, the quality is conditioned by the limitation of the use of finishing. This is only possible if you have the best quality fibre.
Finally, for us, we cannot talk about the best cashmere in the world if we do not have full traceability of the chain and if we are not able to guarantee animal welfare, the preservation of natural resources and sustainable production. Of course, preserving the environment goes hand in hand with respect for social conditions and fair remuneration for herders.