Cashmere, one of the most luxurious fibres in the world, was once reserved for the wealthiest fashionistas. But over the past twenty years or so, its stature has skyrocketed and cheaper garments have flooded the market, turning a product that’s been historically marketed as a luxury item into something attainable for the many. That’s all well and good, but not if it means a degradation of the product itself and the processes surrounding its creation. Which is certainly true for cashmere in recent years.
There are, however, brands out there committed to producing cashmere in a fair way and to an exceptionally high standard, none more so than Naadam. A sustainable cashmere, direct-to-consumer business, Naadam focuses on designing beautifully crafted knitwear, ethically sourced directly from Mongolian herders in the Gobi Desert, and in the process essentially disrupting a 1,000 year old industry by cutting out the middlemen.
So, how does a brand of this kind create noise about its first official physical store in New York City’s Greenwich Village? With pictures of goats. Randy, breeding goats having sex. And lots of them. Over the past few week, New Yorkers may have noticed some of the 1,500 ads strewn across downtown Manhattan depicting the shaggy cloven-hoofed critters doing what they do, and as a result how Naadam is going to bring more cashmere to the world. We love it. And we love Naadam.
Image courtesy: Naadam
It might surprise you to learn but just like anything else, all cashmere is not created equal. While it’s common that all cashmere sourced from Mongolia is organic cashmere, environmentally sustainable cashmere is not and that matters a lot.
Naadam has created the only cashmere yarn that is Cradle to Cradle certified, which evaluates & sets a high standard to protect the earth and basic human rights for how the product is made. The brand has created Naadam’s Gobi Revival Fund, which has invested $150,000 into their nonprofit to inoculate 250,000 goats, and thereby directly supporting 1,000 nomadic herding families in Mongolia.
Treating their herders fairly, the label pays 50% more than traditional traders, meaning you pay 50% less as a customer. That means that just because you pay the big price tag does not guarantee the highest quality, softest cashmere. As with anything, from dirt-cheap to ultra-luxe, cashmere exists at almost every price, but what’s the fairest price?
Image courtesy: Naadam Store NYC
Naadam source their cashmere from the Zalaa Jinst white goat, the only entirely white breed of cashmere goat in Mongolia, with the longest, finest, and lightest in colour fibres. That’s about 30% longer than regular Grade A cashmere, which means the longer your sweater lasts.
Celebrating and upholding over 2,000 years of nomadic herding tradition, the fibres are then hand-combed by their herders, which is said to be the only cruelty-free cashmere since shearing goats can be a very stressful experience for the animals. Even though it takes more time & effort to hand-comb, this old-school practice is still considered the best thing for their goats and for maintaining the composition of the fibres.
Also, due to the harsh geography of this area, it means that only a very limited number of goats are combed by hand every spring. To put it into perspective, to make an average-sized jumper, it requires the wool from approximately 4 adult goats.What’s more, the brand use 100% clean energy powered production facilities, provide livable wages, programmes for healthier goats and more sustainable grazing practices, and never use harsh chemicals or bleaches. You definitely can’t say that about every other cashmere producer.
Image courtesy: Naadam
Caring for your cashmere
While pilling— the small balls that form on the fabric as it chafes — is a natural occurrence in cashmere and usually caused by friction such as from your bag strap, seatbelt or rubbing against another textured fabric, persistent pilling happens when lower quality manufacturers use short fibres. These days, manufacturers frequently make the clothes out of a mix of lengths to balance quality with cost. With Naadam cashmere, however, it pills only once (think of it like shedding a layer of skin), after-which it should not. Remember, longer fibres = stronger cashmere.
And when it comes to cleaning, it’s well known that cashmere should never be put in the washing machine. Instead, it’s recommended that you hand-wash your garments using a gentle baby shampoo and lukewarm water, gently swirling your cashmere and leaving it to soak for up to 30 minutes. To dry, the trick is to then lay out flat on a bath towel and gently roll the garment in the towel, absorbing all the water in a cashmere sushi roll of sorts. Sounds like heaven to us.
With autumn upon us and the winter months not far off, look no further than Naadam for your next knitwear investment.