Here’s the difference between $40 and $2,400 cashmere

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Check this interesting article appeared on Business Insider on 2 May 2018 link to original article


“No man will make you as feel protected and safe as a cashmere coat and a pair of black glasses,” Coco Chanel once said. That’s all very well and good, but trying to understand what the right price is for such a luxurious comfort really can be mystifying nowadays.It was Tibetan goat-derived cashmere that originally gave rise to real commercial empires. That soft and silky wool with its cloud-like consistency has long been a symbol of comfort and style.

Cashmere translates to an expensive luxury for most, but there are exceptions: when you go to pay for your goods you might notice that prices can vary greatly, from $40 all the way up to $2,400.

The real question is, why?

Let’s start at the very top. Loro Piana, an Italian clothing company specialising in high-end, luxury cashmere and wool products, is associated with the best cashmere available. On their online catalogue, you’ll find several items that exceed the $1,200 mark.

However, Falconeri’s catalogue offers products in the $250-350 range, with this figure falling to around $100 for garments at Oviesse and plummeting to about $40 at retailers like Uniqlo.

Within a short space of time, the cashmere market has become heavily saturated.

According to the United Nations, 2016 saw a total of $1.4 billion worth of cashmere items exported worldwide (in 2010 that figure stood at about $1.2 billion). That amounts to about 5 million kilograms of pullovers, jackets, and cardigans. Nowadays, you can find items to suit any budget.

So, which criteria can be used to discern what to choose? What should really affect your decision to purchase a product, ignoring the pricetag?

Today, 67% of the world’s cashmere comes from Chinese goats, with another 22% coming from Mongolian goats. Mongolian wool boasts the longest and most resilient fiber at 43 millimetres in length, compared with 35 millimetres in China.

These numbers matter a lot more than you might think: the longer and more resistant the fiber is, the less likely it is to succumb to body heat and rubbing at high-friction points on the material. Basically, it means you’re less likely to encourage that fraying, piling effect and to end up with your lovely clothing covered in unsightly fluffballs.

Some of the most beautiful cashmere comes from Italy. That’s because Italy is home to the Cashmere Valley in Umbria. According to data from the Umbria Foreign Trade Centre (il Centro Estero Umbria), the knitwear sector, 83% of which is concentrated in Perugia, is home to 1,700 companies and about 7,000 employees, with an annual turnover of over $600 million (€500 million).

However, you only have to browse through high-street shelves to find the ominous term, “cashmere blend.” Just 5% of “fine wool” out of a blend of mostly polyester and nylon might be enough to tempt you into swiping such an item, but the result of ill-advised purchases such as these is often disastrous.

And, of course, there are scams. Frances Kozen, Associate Director at the Cornell Institute of Fashion and Fiber Innovation, said: “In recent years, we’ve registered several complaints about counterfeit goods with 100% cashmere labels, that are actually wool, viscose, and acrylic — sometimes even mouse fur.”

This has resulted in an aversion to purchasing high-grade products that is detrimental to the cashmere industry, as well as buyers slowly becoming accustomed to products of lower quality.

In order to recover their initial value, many companies today rely on telling the story of the wool’s origins, highlighting the lack of chemical or bleaching substances involve, a direction that has been adopted by the likes of Brunello Cucinelli, another Italian luxury brand.

Attention to the processing of the wool, from grazing to sale, has become the only way of justifying higher pricetags and maintaining the survival of the authentic cashmere industry

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