Cash in on cashmere
Many countries around the world aren’t too lucky when it comes to weather this time of year. With the month of December just one week away, lots of people are starting to get comfortable in their winter jackets, thick sweaters and big boots. Personally, I love to stay warm, so finding the right clothing and fabrics to battle off the chills is an important thing. There’s wool and their different variations (Merino Wool, Angora Wool, Camel Hair Wool, etc.), fleece (which is technically just polyester), down (which comes from feathers of geese and ducks and is typically stuffed into coats), and then there’s cashmere (which comes from cashmere goats), among others.
To me, the one that stands out the most among the list above is cashmere. Cashmere is known for being one of the highest quality luxury fabrics in the world. It’s extremely soft, lightweight, and can be up to three times more insulating than your standard sheep wool. All of this comes at quite a hefty cost, with cashmere sweaters from stores like Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) costing a few hundred dollars while higher-end cashmere pieces from companies like Brunello Cucinelli (BATS EU: BCU) or Loro Piana (BATS EU: MC) easily fall into the thousands. But why is it that cashmere costs so much?
Cashmere comes from cashmere goats that are mainly found in regions in China and Mongolia, with 70% of cashmere output coming from China alone. Although these goats are relatively scarce compared to the standard sheep, that’s not the only reason why cashmere is so expensive. The average sheep, for example, can produce 3 kg of wool each year, while cashmere goats produce a measly 200 grams of cashmere in the same amount of time since you can only collect their cashmere once a year.
Getting a hold of the cashmere is just the beginning. Processing this fabric takes a lot of skill and manual labor to maintain the quality and texture of the fabric. Due to its softness, the fabric must be handled delicately and with care from start to finish. This process is what separates a relatively affordable cashmere sweater from Nordstrom and the high-end pieces offered by the likes of Agnona, Loro Piana or Brunello Cucinelli. The more affordable pieces take less manual labor extensive work to produce and result in the ability to produce many more pieces for a lower price, in general. However, one must stay away from the products that claim to be 100% cashmere for costs ranging from $50-$150. Back in 2014, for example, the police in Rome seized more than a million counterfeit clothing items claiming to be made of 100% cashmere while actually having traces of rat fur, acrylic, and other nonsense within them.
Cashmere is not cheap, and it’s definitely not a necessity. However, an investment in this material is one that lasts for years. Next time you see a cashmere sweater with a high price tag, just think of the ten cute goats and extensive manual labor it took to make it happen.