Fast Fashion and Cashmere

Like other types of wool, cashmere fabric is made from the hair of an animal. They’ve been traditionally raised in South Asian countries like Nepal and Tibet but now the largest producers are China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and Iran. People used to pay a lot more for cashmere than they do today. Cashmere has long been a classic wardrobe essential, a luxury item to be cherished and passed on by its owners.  But in the last decade, cashmere has turned into a mass-produced low-quality staple, as mass-market retailers started selling low-priced cashmere.  The fast fashion industry continues to spew out all kinds of garments for lower market prices while the true cost is footed by the people, animals, and environments harmed in their making.

The human cost of the fashion industry is undeniable, with the overconsumption and under-appreciation of our clothes taking a significant toll on the people whose livelihoods are reliant on their production. It might come as a shock but the cashmere industry is no different. Retailers increased the demand for cashmere wool while pushing down the price. Instead of collecting cashmere wool from traditional herding families, a large number of land are being used for grazing goats to fulfill the demand.

In Mongolia, cashmere herding is a big part of a wider nomadic cultural context, with over one million people living rurally in the country, making an income from herding goats, along with other animals. Pushed-down prices and increased environmental pressure threaten such communities, as their land struggles with overgrazing. This has already led to culture loss, with herders moving to urban areas to seek employment and increased economic opportunities. In addition to this, cashmere is typically farmed and made in Mongolia and China, where the natural environments are suffering.

The price of Cashmere fabric and clothing has decreased drastically in the last decades. However, actual producers and craftsmen are not paid fairly and a large share of the profit is taken by the middleman.

Is Cashmere Sustainable Fabric?

Though there are many issues surrounding the sustainability of cashmere, the answer is not that simple. While merino wool and yak wool are more sustainable than cashmere in terms of going further, that doesn’t mean that cashmere is a completely unsustainable option – there are different ways to make it work. Cashmere is a natural fabric that is biodegradable and often doesn’t require toxic chemicals to process —both of which make it a somewhat attractive option for sustainable shoppers. There are ways we can make cashmere sustainable option. The issues of demand are causing a number of brands to rethink the process and find a more sustainable approach to making cashmere. This includes brands working with farmers and herders to practice ‘sustainable grazing’ to ensure the preservation of the land.

As a consumer, you can choose pieces from brands that minimize waste, and the damage to goats and their environment – those with the right credentials, who are prioritizing the planet over profits. Also, choose a label that does not involve a middleman so that actual craftsmen are paid fairly. As with all purchases, do your brand research to ensure you are making informed choices. The most important thing you can do is find out to who you are giving your money, and then decide if it’s something you want to support.

At Alchemy Story we practice a sustainable approach to producing cashmere clothing and delivering it to customers. We only use naturally shed cashmere hair collected from local herders from the mountain region of Nepal where animals are heard as a part of the culture. As we are a direct producer and family-owned small business, no middlemen are involved which is why we are able to offer cashmere clothing at a reasonable price. All our products are hand-loomed and hand knit which contributes to zero carbon emission also natural dyes used in the fabric are less harmful to the environment.

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