Caviar is fine, but cashmere is better.
One of my earliest lessons about cashmere came several years ago from a gentleman who told me that he always travels with a cashmere sweater in his briefcase or carry-on. It can get a little cool in the cabin of a commercial jet, and who wants to scrounge around for one of those airline blankets? Better to pull out your own sweater…your own cashmere sweater. Why cashmere? Because good cashmere is exceedingly both light and warm. Even a very fine sweater of cashmere will be enough to keep you warm and comfortable. In other words, it takes up less space and provides more comfort than any other sweater you could own.
Those who have yet to experience the pure luxury of fine quality cashmere are sometimes reluctant to purchase because of the price tag. A quality cashmere sweater can easily set you back several hundred dollars, or more, and the cost of a fine cashmere blazer can be more like a house payment. Why not just get a bunch of those $99 cashmere sweaters from those “buy one, get two more free” retailers?
Here’s why not: The difference between inferior cashmere (the $99 version) and superior quality cashmere is not incremental but exponential. Even average quality cashmere will start to pill and look worn in just one season of wearing. On the other hand, top quality cashmere will never pill and will still look and feel amazing even after many years of regular use. Suffice to say that not only are the raw materials of superior cashmere products exceptional, the various levels of process they go through, from combing to teaseling, all add to the highly desirable look and feel of the finished product.
“Ok, so it’s worth the price tag,” you say, “but why is quality cashmere so expensive?” Simply put, the really good stuff exists in relatively small quantities and the market is controlled by the Chinese government. Oh, and it comes from the underbelly of the diminutive Kel goats that live high in the Himalayan mountains of Inner Mongolia. Not exactly the most accessible region on the planet. The impact of climate on how natural fibers develop can hardly be overstated.
Each Spring the precious fibers are combed off of the goats by hand. The total annual output from three to four goats is required for just one cashmere sweater. After combing a long journey commences that involves yaks and rafts, maybe some camels and a whole lot of pure manual labor. The old saying “good things take time” is definitely still true in the case of sumptuous, high quality cashmere.
Eventually the best of the fibers arrive at the mills in Scotland and Italy where they are twisted into the most sumptuous of yarns, ready for weaving and knittting. That’s the left brain explanation. What the right brain understands the minute you put on a garment made from quality cashmere is that nothing else is so light and soft, warm and luxurious, and feels like you never want to take it off.
My current favorite cashmere sweater is a medium gray zip mock that I must have worn a thousand times by now. But it still looks great and goes with just about anything. Last winter I started wearing scarves. I have a half dozen in my collection now and expect to add a couple more this winter. But not before I finally get a pair of cashmere lined gloves. What I really want is a cashmere throw, or several, for every sofa and bed in the house and the mountain cabin.
Note: If you’re in the market for a new cashmere blazer or jacket, and you’d like to consider the ultimate, ask for “Serendipity” with a 3-ply twist by Holland & Sherry.
Whether for the first time, or all over again, it’s time to fall in love with really good cashmere.