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All Cashmere is Not Equal
Cashmere as we all know is the hair of mountain goat that it grows during winter season to protect itself from harsh weather and sheds in spring. However just like different breeds of dogs, even a mountain goat comes in different breeds like Capra Hircus, Chanthangi etc. To complicate the matter further even the goats of same breed grow quite different form of hair depending upon where they are raised. Anu Chandwani, President of Home Of Pashmina attempts to help buyers by answering some key questions on Cashmere, its different types in terms of quality, grades and usage in different forms of fabrics. Home Of Pashmina markets worldwide HOP Branded Cashmere products including pashminas. Anu's interview below is being published by a reputed InJersey magazine (INJ) in USA .
Anu : I have been living with Cashmere since I was a child. As part of our family business, we would often travel to Kashmir's rural portions to meet weavers and Pashmina traders and check the quality firsthand. Overtime my grandparents introduced me to various forms of Kashmiri Pashminas, the yarn and its types in order to make sure the products we were buying were best quality. I worked on various Cashmere products like ponchos, sweaters, gloves, capes, caps and lot of Pashminas. So over many years, I amassed a lot of first hand knowledge on cashmere which then I tested during my carrier as lead merchandise manager in a Fashion Export House in Jaipur, India.
Anu : Its a combination of things that go in pricing a product. Firstly let me tell you, all cashmere is not made equal. There are various breeds of mountain goats that grow hair that can be classified as cashmere. It all comes to where the goat lives which affects the fineness of the hair. Goats living in high Himalayan mountain ranges grow very fine hair to keep them warm in harsh Himalayan winter while goats living in not so cold weather grow thicker hair in their undercoat. Fine hair is always better since it makes a lighter weight yarn and hence lighter softer fabric. Secondly the length of hair also makes a difference in quality of Cashmere fabric. Longer the hair, better will be the fabric's performance in terms of pilling. Next comes the ply rating of the yarns used. Lastly the Brand of Cashmere also impacts the pricing because brand stands for quality or product and integrity of service behind it. Thus combination of all these factors decide the price of Cashmere products. Although I am quite certain that if the product is very low priced it sure is not Cashmere. Even viscose can feel like Cashmere but will not keep you warm and will not last.
Anu : At Home Of Pashmina we use Himalayan Cashmere hair based yarns which means the yarns we use are lighter in weight and less fuzzy than the other Cashmere commonly available in the market. Our high end Pashmina yarns cannot be woven into a sweater and are suitable only for light weight Pashminas. Most of the hair used in our high end Pashminas is only 14 microns thick and 35-40mm long. This is Grade-A cashmere. We also carry mid-segment Pashminas where shorter Cashmere hair is mixed with silk to make yarns. Almost all our Cashmere is from Himalayan goat and very fine by nature so our Pashminas are lighter and softer yet, more warm than generally available pashminas in the market. Please feel our Pure Jacquard and Diamond variety and see the difference.
Anu : There are various ways, one way is to take a fabric single layer and rub it between your finger and thumb. My grandfather taught me this many years back. Fabric made with shorter cashmere hair will show signs of pilling while Cashmere made with long hair strands will stand the test easily. This will also test the strength of the weave. Other test is to pull out a strand and tease it till you see long hairs separating. If you can tease the strand to a single hair you can see its length and also thickness. If hair feels fuzzy and thick its lower grade cashmere. If you get too many short hair strands (about a cm) than that Cashmere also is not Grade A. However it does not mean its poor quality, it just means its lower grade and does not command high price. However I do not recommend my readers to pull out strands, as it will weaken the weave and ruin the fabric. We do many other tests on Cashmere that are destructive and do not recommend users doing that. If we have done the testing and branded the product it means you don't have to do it.
Anu; Let me say this, Cashmere is Cashmere there is no such thing as fake Cashmere. If someone sells fabric made with viscose and calls it cashmere than we just say its viscose and not cashmere. People do sell Viscose and Acrylic in name of Pashmina and Cashmere which hurts both the buyer and the cashmere industry. Viscose is a man made synthetic fiber. I cannot say its bad, its soft and strong, just that it is not Cashmere so it has no warmth and should not be marketed as Cashmere. Cashmere is unique, given its hair like texture and high humidity absorbing capability. Thus Cashmere can feel cool in summer and warm in winter. This unique property of Cashmere cannot be replicated by any man made fiber.
Anu: Yes, as I said Cashmere can feel cool in summer and there is a particular weave of Cashmere fabric that is made for summer. Its called Summer Cashmere weave. In this weave very little amount of silk is added to Cashmere ( it is still 100% Cashmere) and weave is wider to allow much more breathing. Given the property of Cashmere to act like a wick, it absorbs the perspiration and yet allows skin to breathe. This make Summer Cashmere feel cool on even a hot day. Same Cashmere when worn indoors or in in cooler weather will become warm. Summer Cashmere is gaining in popularity now days as fabric of choice for fashion scarves that can be used throughout the year.
Anu: Cashmere being animal hair is a dull fabric. You can add some design to it with inlaid Jacquard weave or plaid weave but it still remains dull. Sometimes people need both warmth and luster. Silk being another natural product lends itself well for combining with Cashmere Yarn and given their similar texture, they can be easily dyed with same types of natural dyes. With addition of silk at the yarn level and making fabric that is yarn dyed, we can create stunning designs during weaving. You will see many Pashminas made with Silk Cashmere. However my suggestion to the readers is to make sure Cashmere % by weight is atleast 50% or more. Any less will make the scarf feel just like silk, lustrous but no warmth.
INJ: Before we finish, do you have any suggestions for our readers on Cashmere products, its care etc.
Anu: I would like to request the readers to always buy Branded Cashmere products that have label on them showing % of Cashmere by weight and are marketed by a reputed company that they can reach out to. Mostly branded companies have a lot to lose if they sell you poor quality Cashmere. Also do not look for Pashmina content on the label. Pashmina is Cashmere infact the finest Cashmere has common name - Pashmina, but the label should say Cashmere content always. Buying Cashmere from sidewalks may not be a good idea as it may be viscose or very little Cashmere and mostly just sheep wool which will cause itching to some people when touching the neck and face areas. Always look for a brand to get genuine Cashmere.
To care for Cashmere, I always recommend dry cleaning may be once a year or once every two years. Cashmere yarn is highly processed and washing it in any water will alter its properties. Even if you wash it carefully in mild soap I am sure it looses its warmth with every wash. This has been my personal experience over many years of Cashmere usage and I always recommend dry cleaning.
INJ : Thanks Anu for your time.
Anu : My Pleasure, I am willing to take any questions from your readers. Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com anytime.