Cashmere is considered to be one of the most luxurious materials in the world of fashion, and we totally understand why: it’s amazing! Soft, light and beautiful. However, far from all cashmere is sustainably or ethically sourced, which totally kills our buzz. It’s not luxury without sustainability, right?
Pure cashmere is made from the soft undercoats of cashmere goats, and according to PETA, these are kept by the millions in China and Mongolia. Apparently, the most animal friendly way of retrieving their wool is by combing the goats by hand, but as this is very time consuming, shearing is commonly practiced. This is done in spite of the fact that it robs the animals of their natural insulation, leaving them vulnerable to the cold winter climate and deadly illnesses. Not so luxe.
In search of better options, we look to MANDKHAI—a London-based brand by Mongolian knitwear designer Mandkhai Jargalsaikhan that specialises in cashmere with a focus upon sustainability. And we’re not just talking about your regular round-neck cashmere sweater here, but rather sculptural dresses and sharp, tailored suiting. They launched in 2013, and as Jargalsaikhan has inherited her parents’ cashmere factory in Mongolia, she carries on the family tradition by producing all her designs there. Obviously, ownership enables unlimited insight to and control over the full supply chain, as the entire process—from the sourcing of wool to dying and spinning of yarn—is managed in-house.
So, what about the cashmere? MANDKHAI sources theirs directly from nomadic herders that live a traditional Mongolian lifestyle, farming the wool from free roaming goats on the Mongolian plains. Feeling very passionately about this natural fiber, they’ve taken it upon themselves to educate customers to make a more informed choice about the quality of the cashmere they buy; and there are definitely better and worse choices.
But that’s not all: Ethical or not, the environmental impact of cashmere farming still seems to be pretty high. According to Stella McCartney, it takes four goats to produce one single cashmere sweater, while a sheep can generate wool for five. With the high demand, farmers increase the numbers of goats in their herds, and as they graze on the grasses, these lands are exposed to a substantial threat of desertification.
Bottom line: Cashmere is no uncomplicated matter, which makes it even more important to get it from the brands that actually care. We believe MANDKHAI do just that.
Brand to watch is our regular dispatch of standout labels merging ethics with aesthetics.
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