All About Cashmere
Our team has been making cashmere knitwear for 20+ years. As cashmere experts, we often get questions about the yarn, the processes, the sustainability factor and most frequently: "why is it so expensive"?!
Read on for a deep-dive into this ultra luxurious yarn.
What is Cashmere?
Cashmere yarn is one of the most precious natural resources in the world. This luxurious material comes from goats and is finer, softer and warmer than sheep's wool.
Cashmere is a natural fiber which comes from an animal – just like silk, wool, and any other hair or furs. Some other common natural fibers you might have heard of include: merino wool, mohair, sheep’s wool, & the list goes on. There is also a laundry list of natural fibers that instead come from plants: cotton, linen, bamboo & more. These naturally occurring fibers (whether they are derived from plants or animals) are more valuable and precious than man-made synthetic fibers like viscose, rayon, or polyester because of their natural properties & the benefits they provide.
Where do cashmere goats live you ask? A lot of cashmere goats (like ours!) live in Inner Mongolia where temperatures are extreme. These goats grow a long, coarse coat – but underneath is a soft, down-like fleece. During the Spring, the goats “moult” and the soft underdown is combed. This fleece is then cleaned, dyed (if applicable) and spun into yarn which then is made into your favorite cashmere sweater. See The 411 on Cashmere for more on the process.
Is All Cashmere The Same?
There are three "grades" of cashmere yarn: A, B and C.
Grade A: la crème de la crème. It measures around 14 microns. This is what we use, exclusively.
Grade B: the middle class, around 18-19 microns.
Grade C: is the lowest quality, measuring around 30 microns.
In addition to what grade of cashmere is used, there are some other factors as well that can contribute to the hand-feel and quality of the garment, mainly:
1. Knitting - The "ply" and "gauge" which signals how the item is knit will also impact the feel of the sweater. A "Fine Gauge" 100% Cashmere sweater is going to feel much more buttery than a standard 9 or 12 gauge sweater. On the flip side, a loose knit will also feel softer than a super tight knit sweater.
2. Washing - "Overwashing" a sweater in the manufacturing process can lead to a super soft initial feel, but over time this garment may pill and wear down faster than others.
3. Dyeing - Did you know the color can actually impact the feel? Lighter colors, especially ivory/cream colors are going to feel the softest versus a black or dark colored sweater because they have been messed with less!
4. Yarn Blend - Is the garment 100% Cashmere? Lots of brands mark an item as "cashmere" when really it may be a blend of cashmere and wool, or another yarn. Nothing against these blends - we use them occasionally too - but they should always be clearly labeled.
To gauge the quality of the cashmere in your hands, you can do some tests to understand the quality:
1) It stretches easily and goes back to its natural shape.
2) Once you run your hand over the item, it does not shed.
3) It doesn't look overly "furry" - this can signal overwashing or brushing.
Buying from a reputable brand that focuses on cashmere is key.
Why does the price of cashmere vary so much?
Did you know that it takes the "underdown" wool from about 3-5 goats to make one cashmere sweater?
Did you know that it equates to about 2 miles of yarn?
The price of cashmere fluctuates within the market on an annual basis. That being said, it is always a more expensive material because it is a precious finite resource, hence the nickname "the golden yarn".
Off-price retailers can sell last years goods or lower grade cashmere items for promotional prices to get customers in the door, particularly around the holiday season.
Super high-end luxury brands can also sell Grade A cashmere for thousands of dollars. Obviously there is a difference here in quality, but there are also other factors that go into the price such as brand name and recognition along with where the yarn came from.
Where was the sweater manufactured? For example a 100% cashmere sweater with Mongolian yarn that was made in Italy versus made in China may actually be made in the exact same way but the Italian version will be more expensive due to labor, duties and more.
Like everything in life, we like to strike a balance between high quality and accessible pricing to provide our customers with a super soft Grade A cashmere sweater, that you don't need to take out a 2nd mortgage for.
Why is everyone obsessed with cashmere?
Cashmere in its raw form has one of the narrowest fiber diameter – making it finer and softer to the touch. Part of the softness also depends on the finishing (dying, washing, etc). Soft, high quality, cashmere will feel like butter against your bare skin.
Cozy & Warm
Cashmere is about 8 times (YES, 8x) warmer than a regular wool sweater. It is arguably the warmest fiber you can wear. If it keeps the goats in Inner Mongolia warm – it will do the same for you. For the coldest temps, opt for cashmere and you’ll be cozy & warm.
If you take good care of your cashmere knitwear, it should last you a lifetime. A classic style will stand the test of time and you’ll never get sick of that cozy feeling it provides. For more information read Caring for your Cashmere.
How do I care for Cashmere?
With any luxury item, you can't neglect it completely and expect it to last you forever - it take a little care to keep them in amazing condition. Read on for our top 5 tips:
1. Do NOT put cashmere in the washing machine, ever. I don't care if you have a super fancy washing machine with a ultra delicate cycle... don't do it. Wash by hand (following these instructions to a T) or take to a trusted dry cleaner.
2. No chemicals, fabric softener or anything else. Water and a LITTLE mild detergent or baby shampoo is best. Keep it simple.
3. Cashmere doesn't need to be laundered as often as your underwear. Because of its breathable nature, cashmere can be aired out for use the next day.. and remain fresh for a little while longer.
4. Handle pills (it will happen with even the most expensive cashmere!) as needed with a cashmere comb or de-piller using light pressure. Wearing cross body handbags or textured furniture (anything causing friction to the garment) can increase pilling. More on that here
5. Use a steamer to lightly steam your garment to keep it fresh. You can use a gentle sweater spray if you'd like!
What is the process to make a cashmere sweater?
There are so many steps that go into making your cashmere sweater. Lets break it down:
Cashmere is sourced from a specific type of cashmere goat, usually once a year in April when the goats molt. These goats live in different regions but the majority we have reside in China & Inner Mongolia. During the time when they molt, the goats are sheared. This process is not harmful to the goats - its just like a Spring haircut.
The raw materials are then sorted, making sure only pure cashmere fleece is left, and all impurities are removed. This process is done 3 separate times & under UV light.
Next, the fleece is washed to rinse it of natural oils.The raw materials are then transported to Wuxi, where the fibers are examined to ensure the fiber lengths meet our strict standards. Longer fibers, better cashmere. Shorter fibers, more pilling.
We then test again for any fiber impurities and analyze the fibers under microscopes to ensure highest quality standard.
Depending upon our seasonal colors, the raw materials are then dyed to exclusive colors for our brand. A little insider tip, lighter color cashmere will typically be softer as its not exposed to as much dye.
After dyeing, the fleece is "carded". This carding process essentially opens up and separates the fibers. After carding, the cashmere fibers are spun into cashmere yarn on cones. Now that the cashmere is in yarn form - its sent to our factory in Huidong to be knitted.
Each part of the sweater is then knit into panels (we have over 500 machines working on this, much faster than your Grandma). So you'll end up with the front panel, back panel and sleeves for a basic pullover. Each panel is then inspected by hand to ensure no issues.
Panels are then linked together. This process is referred to as "fully fashioned", meaning each part of the sweater is linked, or knit together instead of cut & sewn. For example, a typical button down woven shirt will be cut into pieces and sewn together. You can tell from the inside seam - check it out next time you're getting dressed!
Now that the sweater is complete - it is washed again, or dry cleaned if it is a highly embellished style.
Next, the knitwear is steam pressed and measured one last time. We make sure every sweater fits perfectly as intended, down to a quarter of an inch.
The sweater is then inspected again (can you tell? we're very into inspection), this time under light to ensure no holes or issues with linking. Our label & neck trim (check it out, its a special little detail we add into almost every sweater for added comfort and style) is put in by hand. This ensures that you can't see any sewing from the label on the back of the sweater. The products then go through one final QC check.
Finally, they are packed up & sent to us in the US where we get them ready to send to your door! It is truly direct-to-consumer.
When you really dig into the full manufacturing process from beginning to end, you realize how much work goes into each & every sweater. Our factories are artisans who specialize in cashmere knitwear - it is their passion & expertise!
Have questions? Here are some of the most common ones:
What makes FILORO Cashmere different?
FILORO launched in August of 2018. However, we have been in the cashmere business for 20+ years. We are completely vertically integrated, meaning we control every step of the process from raw materials to finished product and own our factories. This allows us to provide extremely high quality products directly to you at lower prices. We continue to also manufacture cashmere knitwear for other brands & department stores.
How do your items fit?
Our general size chart is available here. However, each style fits differently per the design so we recommend reading the product description for more info. More often than not, our items run a little big to have that cozy feel. We love talking with our customers so feel free to email us at email@example.com for more advice on how any item fits!
How do I launder my cashmere?
Most styles can be sent to a reputable Dry Cleaner or you can hand wash. For the 411 on how to care for your cashmere,find more info here.
Is FILORO Cashmere sustainable?
More information on our policies & procedures surrounding sustainability are available here.
What ply and gauge are FILORO sweaters?
Our cashmere is 2-ply. Each sweater may vary in gauge & weight depending upon the design. Details are provided on each product page. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on any item!