The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Community News Network

December 27, 2012

Slate's Explainer: Why is cashmere more expensive than other kinds of wool?

Winter is upon us, which means that cashmere sweaters - a staple of holiday gift-giving and cold-weather fashion - have returned to store shelves. Those planning to purchase a garment boasting the label "100 percent cashmere" can expect a hefty price tag; at Banana Republic, one cardigan is priced at $198; elsewhere, you can find cashmere sweaters for upward of $500. Why is cashmere so much more expensive than other kinds of wool?

Its costly production process and scarcity. Cashmere comes from the soft undercoat of goats bred to produce the wool. It takes more than two goats to make a single two-ply sweater. The fibers of the warming undercoat must be separated from a coarser protective top coat during the spring molting season, a labor-intensive process that typically involves combing and sorting the hair by hand. These factors contribute to the relatively low global production rate of cashmere - approximately 30,000 pounds a year compared to about 3 million pounds of sheep's wool.

The name cashmere comes from an old spelling of Kashmir, the region where its production and trade originated, possibly as early as the Mongolian empire in the 13th century. According to historian Michelle Maskiell, author of "Consuming Kashmir: Shawls and Empires, 1500-2000," from the 1500s to as late as the early 1900s, Iranian and Indian emperors used Kashmiri shawls in political and religious settings; in the Mughal Indian courts, for example, the acceptance of a shawl from a political figure established a hierarchy between the giver and the receiver.

In the late 18th century, Scottish textile manufacturer Joseph Dawson discovered shawls made from cashmere in India and began to import the material to his factory in Scotland. Dawson sold shawls to upper-class British women who prized the fabric for its softness and warmth. (High-quality cashmere can be up to eight times warmer than sheep's wool despite its light weight.)

 But not all cashmere is equally luxe: The texture, color and length of the fibers all affect manufacturing and pricing. Naturally, whiter cashmere fibers require less dye, diminishing the damage that coloring causes to its natural softness. Quality also depends on the region in which the wool is collected. In Inner Mongolia, for instance, the winters are harsh and the goats have a more meager diet, which produces the finer hair seen in the highest quality garments. Still, even the best raw material can be compromised by a sub-par finishing process. The fineness of a cashmere item comes down to that process, as the spinning and weaving of the fabric affects the look, feel and touch of the final product.

China is the largest supplier of the raw material needed to make cashmere wool, but Europe has mastered cashmere manufacturing methods, and has cornered the market on premium quality products.

               

        



 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
E-edition
AP Video
Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City
NDN Video
Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Must Read