The cashmere name originates from the Kashmiri region in India where the cashmere yarn was first spun. It came to Europe in the 1800s when Napoleon returned from his travels and gave the gift of a cashmere shawl to his beloved Empress Josephine.
The cashmere name originates from the Kashmiri region in India where the cashmere yarn was first spun. It came to Europe in the 1800s when Napoleon returned from his travels and gave the gift of a cashmere shawl to his beloved Empress Josephine. She became fascinated with the material and the rest of Europe's fashion world soon followed.
At Poetry, we have been similarly captivated by cashmere since our very first collection and have been developing new designs ever since. Each season we found new ways to appreciate the material and go beyond generic cashmere styles and in 2021 we created a dedicated cashmere collection. All of our high-quality cashmere is responsibly sourced from a single supplier with whom we have worked for many years.
Cashmere comes not from the wool of sheep, but from mountain goats, particularly those that live in Mongolia and China. There, in the terrain of steppes and grasslands, the goats experience a wide range of temperatures and large fluctuations between the seasons. Temperatures can reach 40C in the summer and drop to -50C in the winter. To live comfortably in this harsh climate goats have adapted by growing coats in two layers. The outer layer is made of long coarse hair that protects against the wind and the sun, and an inner coat of much finer hair provides insulation even in the harshest winters. The ultra-fine hair from the inner layer is what we call cashmere.
As the temperature rises significantly in the summers the goats naturally shed the extra hair. For centuries herdsmen have taken advantage of this and comb the goats for their unique fibre. The goats are combed by hand with a metal comb without causing any harm to the animal. Since only the shedding fibres are collected as the summer approaches, the goats never go cold.
Not to be misled by the wide availability of cashmere in recent years, cashmere is a luxury fibre and should always be treated as such. A cashmere sweater is meant to be treasured - the favourite piece that feels great in every aspect: light, soft and warm, the one that is worn again and again until it is handed down through the family.
Why is it such a luxury? Because the combing of a single goat, which happens once a year, yields on average around 140 g of raw fibre. Once all the processing is done, it takes four goats a full year to provide enough fibre for one sweater. In comparison, one sheep can provide enough fibre for four coats and sheep are much less fussy about their geographic location.
In an ideal world, cashmere could be a wonderfully noble and sustainable fibre, but unfortunately, high demand from the high street and retailers of ‘affordable luxury’ is creating environmental concerns in the production of cashmere. When grazing, cashmere goats often go for the root of the plant and are not easy on the land when grazed extensively. The high demand for low-quality cashmere pushes herders to overgraze the natural grasslands which leads to desertification.
It is important to appreciate the uniqueness of cashmere but also be reminded not to fall for cheap cashmere as everything has a price, and sometimes it is environmental.
We use recycled cashmere for our accessory products which creates a slightly more textured yarn. Although recycled cashmere does not have the same quality as virgin cashmere, it still retains the softness and warmth. We encourage cashmere recycling by providing a service to our UK customers to send any unwanted cashmere clothing to be recycled, free of charge. See our webpage for more information.
Not all cashmere is equal. The fibre fineness and fibre structure of cashmere determines its softness and how it feels next to the skin. Typically, two aspects of the fibre need to be considered: the diameter of its cross-section and the length of the fibre. The cross sections measurement signifies the fineness of the fibre and therefore relates to its softness, but the length of the fibre ensures that the fibres can be spun in fine and high-quality yarn. The longer the fibre the better the strength and longevity. To be considered cashmere the fibre's cross-section must be less than 19 microns which are around 9 times less than a human hair and around the size of two human red blood cells.
Poetry is proud to use cashmere with the cross-section of only 15.5 microns and 35 mm length which is as good as it gets. Our cashmere supplier is the only one producing such fine micron cashmere readily available in the Chinese cashmere industry.