A Cashmere Conundrum – Should I Go Sustainable?

These days, the word sustainable is literally everywhere. We eat sustainable tuna and salmon, we buy lotions and creams made out of sustainable plants, we even build our houses and conservatories out of sustainable materials. Now, the time has come to start thinking about the way in which we shop for clothes. The garment industry has long been a target of environmental experts and human rights campaigners, because there are endless numbers of people who are exploited by it on a day to day basis. It’s precisely why we at London W11 are so dedicated to sourcing materials and products that you can be proud to invest in.

We are committed to providing our customers with only the best quality cashmere garments – this means being right at the forefront of the campaign for sustainability. You can shop with London W11 safe in the knowledge that your fashion choices won’t have a negative impact on animals or communities. At this point in time, there are very few excuses left for failing to invest in sustainably sourced cashmere. It might have been that twenty or thirty years ago, consumers didn’t know much about the cashmere industry – the same cannot be said for contemporary consumers.

It takes just five minutes to conduct an internet search into the effects of unethical cashmere farming – that’s just five minutes to become a responsible, informed consumer. If you want to enjoy the sumptuousness and opulence of this luxury material, it’s important to know where it is coming from. Fortunately, we can take care of it on your behalf. We’re certainly not asking our customers pick up a placard and go out campaigning for animal rights, not when a simple switch to an ethical supplier like London W11 is all that is needed. Whilst cashmere was once considered out of reach for anybody but the wealthy, faster farming and manufacturing methods have transformed the industry.

Straight From The Source – if we want to keep top quality cashmere within the grasp of regular consumers, it’s vital that these farming and manufacturing methods are rigorously regulated and monitored. The farming of cashmere is mostly restricted to countries like Mongolia, China, Iran, India and Tibet. These countries all contain fairly arid, mountainous regions where Kashmir goats can grow and thrive. The Kashmir goat is similar to the domestic goat that is farmed for milk in Europe, but it is wilder and it has a distinctive thick, downy coat. This dense fur is where cashmere comes from – the goats are reared to adulthood and then shorn or combed of their underbelly wool.

In theory, the practice is a completely harmless one. It’s just like shearing a sheep – the goat isn’t injured by the removal of its fur. The explosion of the cashmere industry, however, has prompted many Asian farmers to cut corners when it comes to the rearing of their animals. Just like battery hen farms in Britain, animals who were once free to roam are packed into atrocious conditions on factory farms. Those left to wander on open grasslands are causing severe environmental problems in places like China and Mongolia, says Oxfam campaigner Emma Waight. In the nineties, there were 2.4 million goats in the Gobi Desert, in Mongolia – there are now 26 million in the same region.

Part Of The Problem – before 2004, cashmere was sourced in Asia and spun in Scotland or Italy – the cashmere capitals of the world. After 2004, restrictions on cashmere imports were limited and China flooded the market with budget products. Today, there are more than two hundred cashmere manufacturers in China. This in stark contrast to Italy and Scotland – both countries famed for their production of the material, both countries with only a handful of certified cashmere manufacturers. Whilst it is natural for consumers to want to get the most out of their money, they must also understand that there are consequences to the rampant western desire for budget high street garments. There is a very good reason why cashmere is more expensive than other materials – it is better than other materials.

Here at London W11, we offer customers beautiful cashmere sweaters, scarves and cardigans, and while we will never be as cheap as the T-shirts or jumpers in budget retailers, we pride ourselves on the quality of our garments while still being great value for money. This is because cashmere isn’t cashmere without the quality – budget products are very often itchy, rough and shapeless. They pill at the slightest touch, the fabric falls out of line if you tug it too hard and the colour runs when you attempt to wash them. In contrast, a top quality cashmere sweater or cardigan is always soft to the touch. It is extremely lightweight, yet surprisingly warm. A top quality cashmere sweater, if cared for correctly, can last the wearer a lifetime.

A Brand New Solution – as the cashmere industry begins to wake up to the need for greater regulation and quality control, various solutions designed to address the sustainability issues of cashmere farming are now appearing on a regular basis. One of the most surprising is the suggestion that fans of cashmere should switch to an alternative – namely, alpaca wool. The soft and versatile fabric is set to dominate the world of high fashion over the next decade. As part of the Peruvian Trade Commission Alpaca Project, five burgeoning New York designers recently travelled to Peru to immerse themselves in the farming and manufacturing of alpaca wool.

Whilst there is certainly potential in the growing alpaca wool industry, you don’t have to give up your cashmere to be a responsible consumer. You only have to take the time to think about your purchases and where they come from – if they’re sustainably sourced, you can wear them with pride. It isn’t difficult to get clued up either, as most ethical suppliers will advertise the fact on their website. If you can’t find any information about where your chosen supplier sources their wool, drop them a line and ask a few questions. There’s nothing we love more than talking with our customers.

Talk to you soon!




About Eva-Maria Khan (29 Articles)
Eva Maria Khan has been working in the fashion industry for over 20 years, 12 of those saw her working for exclusive designer brands in the fashion capitals of Europe, Milan and Paris. During this time, she imbued each collection she worked on with a passion for luxury and effortless elegance which is typified by cashmere knitwear. For this reason, she founded London W11 to share her passion for cashmere knitwear with the world. You can follow Eva Maria on , @w11cashmere or LinkedIn.

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