Blog Sustainable materials

How sustainable is cashmere

This is already the last blog post in the Fashion Revolution Week 2019 series. Here I want to talk about wool, and not just average wool. I want to talk about cashmere, a fabric that is considered very luxurious.

What is cashmere?

Cashmere is an extremely soft kind of wool that comes from goats, most often from Asia. Wool is the warm coat sheep and goats need during winter, but in summertime, they loose this think layer of hairs again. Cashmere are the very fine hairs from the wool skin and is therefore the softest. Even though the hairs are so fine and silky, cashmere is still very warm. Because of all the advantages of cashmere, it is a very sought-after material. However, it is also a material that is very scarce.

Why is cashmere is a problem?

Well, fast fashion didn’t do much great things for the fashion industry. Neither for the cashmere industry. Because we all want luxurious clothing for a fraction of the price and because so many retailers want to sell this, cashmere production has become another polluting, degrading and unethical industry. I will discuss three victims in this article: the goats, nature, and the already endangered wildlife.

First of all, the cashmere goats are often victim of bad treatment, which came out after a investigation by PETA, who found the following results in 2016:

Goats have little fat on their bodies, and their coats protect them from the bitter climates in these countries. But in the cashmere industry, they’re shorn in midwinter, at a time when they need their coats the most, and as a result, the vulnerable animals can die of cold stress.

The same goes for Angora goats, who are used for mohair, and Pashmina goats, who are used for Pashmina wool. One report warns that cold weather or storms “cause excessive losses in Angora flocks … at shearing time.”

Published November 23, 2016
 by PETA .

Besides that cashmere goats can freeze to death when shorn in winter, they are also most often victim to bad shearing techniques. Because everything has to go as fast and as cheap as possible, goats are treated as things instead of living creatures. They’re shorn so rough, that they often cut open their skin or even cut off genitals.

Besides the bad treatment of the animals, also our Mother Nature is a victim of excessive goat breeding. Because of the huge demand of cashmere a few goats per farmer is not realistic anymore. Farmers need big flocks of goats to supply all that demand. Nature cannot handle so much goats on a single grassland, which then causes desertification, loss or grass and biodiversity.

Last but not least, the excessive breeding of goats leads to a pressure on already endangered wildlife, as they are pushed away from the land or being killed after a conflict with humans.

Forbes wrote a great article on this topic too, which you can find here.

So as you can see, the nowadays situation of cashmere production is most often a problematic one. If we keep allowing these situation and if we keep buying cheap cashmere from unethical brands, this situation is only getting worse.

What is the solution?

Well, first of all, we have to ask for transparency from all brands. Back in the days, cashmere was directly sold from producer to consumer. However, nowadays a long production chain has taken over the market, where brands can’t, or don’t want to, ensure how and where the product has been made. By asking more transparency, we can fight the bad treatment of animals, garment workers and our Mother Nature.

Secondly, we have to buy less new products and more from an existing market. There is so much beautiful second hand cashmere that can have a second life. Check out your local vintage stores, second hand stores or have a look on online platforms such as Vestiaire Collective and Imparfaite Paris.

Thirdly, we have to be more aware of the quality of cashmere. Normally, a good cashmere garment, will last you a lifetime. However, if we buy cheap products, the quality is already lower, and besides that, we often don’t feel the need of treating the garment with absolute care. Wool is a material that does not have to be washed or cleaned in a very long time. Wool can clean itself, but if you want to speed up this proces, you can hang your items in the bathroom whilst showering as a steaming effect, or you can hang your items in the sun, so the sun will do its disinfection job. We have to take care for our products, as this will extend its lifetime.

Finally, I would like to finish with saying: if you do need a new cashmere garment, please make sure to buy one from an ethical fashion brand that is transparent on its production proces. It’s hard to find good quality cashmere, so if you want something good, you can be sure to find it at a fair and sustainable fashion brands, because of their transparency.

Recently I’ve received a cashmere shawl by Kushi, a slow fashion brand that works directly together with artisans from Nepal. You can read more about Kushi here. Their cashmere collection features beautiful soft scarfs in all shades of grey. I am so happy with this scarf in particular, because I know it’s been made under good conditions, that the goats are treated well and that it’ll last a lifetime because of the great quality. I will take good care of my garment, and I will wear it with pride. So if you need a new light but warm shawl, that you can wear all four seasons, you have to check out their Cashmere Collection.

Kushi The Thamel