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Why is Cashmere So Expensive?

Cashmere sweaters are known for their soft texture and warmth.
To be considered authentic cashmere, the fibers must come from the hairs of cashmere goats.
China is one of the world's leading producers of cashmere.
The high quality of cashmere wool makes it a prized material.
Kashmir goats are widely raised in Iran.
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  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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Cashmere is a soft luxury fiber prized for warm, soft, and beautiful sweaters, scarves, and hats. In order to be considered authentic, the fiber must come from the hairs of the cashmere goat, an animal originally introduced to Westerners by the area of Asia known as Kashmir. When the British took control of Kashmir in the 1800s, they began exporting the fiber to Europe, creating intense demand which continues to this day. In addition to being beautiful, it is also infamous for being very expensive, due to the labor intense process used to create garments made from it.

The majority of the world's cashmere today comes from China and Mongolia, where the goats are raised in the Gobi Desert. These goats are bred specifically for their extremely soft, pale hair, which can be dyed to any color, and are therefore highly sought after. The harsh conditions in the Gobi Desert severely restrict the number of goats that can be raised, however, meaning that the hand harvested and often hand-spun fiber commands a high price when it reaches the market: and this is before the notoriously difficult yarn has been knitted or woven.

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Other parts of Asia and the Middle East, including Pakistan, India, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iran, also raise cashmere goats, although they tend to produce gray or brown hair, which is not as highly prized. In addition, most hair produced in these areas is somewhat stiffer, and less soft. For this reason, it is used in lower grade garments and weavings, although because of the intensive process to harvest it, it can still be quite costly.

High quality cashmere is always hand combed from the goats. After combing, the hair is cleaned to remove impurities, which often reduces the yield by as much as two thirds of the original weight. The remaining pure fiber is silky soft, and ready for dying and carding prior to being spun. Cashmere is often woven into two-ply yarn, which is a superior form of yarn, but also twice as expensive because it involves two strands. When a single strand of yarn is used, the twist in the yarn created as it is spun can pull at a sweater, changing the shape over time: two ply yarn uses two strands going in opposite directions to eliminate a bias in the weave or knit.

Because cashmere is so expensive and labor intensive to produce, it must be taken care of appropriately. The material is highly durable and will last for years if cared for properly. It should always be washed by hand in warm water with mild soap, and blotted gently with a towel before laying it out flat to dry. Individuals who own cashmere garments should appreciate the effort that goes into making them; it would take a single goat four years to produce enough wool for a sweater, and producing one also involves countless hours of labor to raise, feed, and care for the unique animal.

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anon311781
Post 13

Mongolian cashmere is better than Chinese cashmere and more expensive.

John57
Post 12

@bagley79 -- It does seem crazy that people spend so much money for cashmere, but when you realize the long process that goes into it, you can see why. I have always admired how soft cashmere is, but have never had anything that was made with pure cashmere.

After reading about why it is so expensive I don't think it is something I will ever go out and buy for myself. I know the wool is something the goats produce naturally, but that sure seems like a long time and an awful lot of labor just for one luxurious piece of clothing.

bagley79
Post 11
I have a black cashmere v-neck sweater that is a staple in my wardrobe. Because this is solid black it can go with so many things and I can also dress it up even more depending on what accessories I wear with it. I had no idea that it took 4 years for one goat to have enough cashmere for this one sweater. When I look at it that way, I feel almost exuberant that I even own that sweater.
honeybees
Post 10

The only item of clothing I have that is made of cashmere is a scarf. I don't use this as my every day scarf and only wear it when I dress up. I always feel like I am pampering myself when I wear this scarf because it is so incredibly soft.

Caring for cashmere does take more maintenance than clothes you can just throw in the washer and dryer, but it is nice to have special items like this to wear from time to time. I don't think wearing cashmere is something that will ever go out of style because it is so luxurious.

golf07
Post 9

I recently bought a ladies cashmere sweater that was around $350. In contrast, a wool-blend sweater that was not pure cashmere was half the price. This is the first time I ever bought a pure cashmere sweater and I expect this to last me a long time. If you wait until the end of the season, you could probably find lower prices on cashmere items, but I needed it at the time for a special occasion and hope I will get my money out of it for years to come.

bluedolphin
Post 8

You can actually find affordable cashmere from outlet stores, auction sites or second-hand stores. I want to buy a cashmere scarf for my husband for Christmas and I found one last night that is affordable on an online auction site.

discographer
Post 7

@burcidi-- I can't speak for all cashmere products, but those made by well known, high-end brands usually cost hundreds of dollars.

There are definitely fake cashmere products out there and some of them even use the logos of the original brands. One way you can tell is that these logos are usually misspelled or look slightly different than the original one. Real cashmere is very expensive, but the quality is also amazing. If you've ever seen and touched authentic cashmere, you'll be able to tell them apart from the fake ones very easily.

burcidi
Post 6
I always thought that cashmere was overrated because of its high price tag but after reading about all the work that goes into producing it, the price should be even higher.

I'm assuming that some clothing retailers are taking advantage of the high price of cashmere to make similar cloths that are not as expensive.

How expensive should an authentic cashmere product be? If we see a less expensive item labeled cashmere, should we assume that it is fake? How can we tell the difference between authentic and fake cashmere?

recapitulate
Post 3

@elizabeth23, even handwashing luxury cashmere and other woolens can be damaging to fabrics. It is important to use a light soap, not a harsh detergent, and to soak and rinse well when handwashing wool.

elizabeth23
Post 2

Any type of wool can be very difficult to are for, and most should be hand washed. Cashmere in particular, though, will shrink, get pulled out of shape, or felt (the process when woolen material gets fuzzy and the stitches are no longer identifiable), making it virtually unwearable.

sherlock87
Post 1

Women's cashmere in particular can be very expensive. Another reason for the high prices in cashmere is that many clothing designers also specialize their cashmere designs, including in colour and shape, and also limit production numbers, making them very exclusive to purchase.

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