Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tips on shopping for CASHMERE

Today's marketplace has seen an ever-increasing demand for cashmere products. In order to help meet demand, some manufacturers have been "padding" their cashmere percentages listed on the garment tags, while some others use the coarser, thicker, and shorter hairs from the Kashmir goats and call it "cashmere." Pretty much any hair from the Kashmir goat can be called "cashmere," but there are great differences in quality.

The finest cashmere is the thinnest (diameter) and longest of the fibers. Longer, thinner fibers make for a much stronger and softer yarn. When spun into yarn, the longer fibers are much less likely to become separated from the yarn and pill. Pilling is basically the smaller strands of cashmere separating from the knit and bundling together.

ALL cashmere will pill, but the best quality will pill considerably less and practically STOP pilling after the first few wears. It's like the sweater is getting its "pilling" out of its system.

Alright, things to look for in shopping for CASHMERE:
  1. The label- Even department stores can be duped into buying lesser-quality cashmere so ALWAYS check the tag. People like to claim "cashmere sweaters on sale" or whatever. Then, you look at the tag and it's 5% cashmere... By law, all cashmere sweaters are required to be labeled with the percentage of cashmere, country of origin, and the name of manufacturer.
  2. Price- If a "100% Cashmere" sweater is retailed less than $200, it is probably a lesser quality. On SALE for $200 is great!
  3. Feel- Cashmere will be extraordinarily soft and should not feel rough at all. Lower quality can feel slightly prickly or rough. Most people who are allergic to wool (like myself) can wear cashmere with NO problem. Sometimes it doesn't feel rough to your hand, but try it on. Your stomach is more sensitive than your fingers.
  4. Look- If a sweater looks too "poofy" or extra fuzzy, don't buy it. Poofy=pilling. Cashmere should be tightly knit and look smooth. Even when it looks smooth, cashmere should be soft, light, and feel like you are wearing air.
  5. Look- Is it shiny? Yes? Don't buy it. More often than not, it is a cashmere blend. Usually, silk.
  6. Seams- Look inside the sweater and see how the seams have been done. If the seams have been serged, walk away. Serged seams is when the shape of a sweater has been cookie-cut from a large piece of cashmere and then sewn together on the edges to hide the raw edges. Knit cashmere sweaters will be put together as individual sections that were knit individually.
  7. Stretch- Cashmere should give a BIT, like all knit fabrics. If you pull from side to side and your sweater stays stretched in that shape, it is poor quality. Cashmere should rebound directly and quickly into its original shape.

I hope this helps you in your search for the best cashmere! If I think of more things to consider, I will add it!


Emily said...

Cashmere Connoisseur,

What is your favorite brand/designer? I have a TSE sweater, several J.Crew cashmere cardigans but that's about where it stops...I'm horrible at shopping around. I'm pregnant and looking for very comfy, soft sweaters, cardigans and robes. Any suggestions?


Cashmere Connoisseur said...

Hi Emily,
My apologies for taking so long to find this comment! My email notifications aren't working again... apparently... and I haven't done a new post in forever. SO, that aside: TSE is my favorite! J Crew is also great, so you're in good hands thus far. I also really like Neiman Marcus Exclusive, Ralph Lauren, Loro Piana (but you're looking at VERY pricey stuff there...) and Kinross. There are so many brands doing cashmere nowadays that you're bound to fine it almost anywhere. But the brands I've just mentioned are reputable for quality. There are also some Scottish brands that are GREAT. Supposedly the Scottish have "special" water that makes there cashmere softer, lol. I think they just know what they're doing... I hope you had/have a wonderful pregnancy! Congratulations!

Valerie said...

Hi Cashmere Connoisseur,

Just out of curiosity, how much do you think is a good price to pay for cashmere? Especially for Scottish cashmere? Do you know where TSE is made in? Is it in China, US or Japan? Because they don't indicate the country of origin where they're made.

Cashmere Connoisseur said...

Price definitely depends on quality. For a simple, top quality piece in a classic color and design, I would expect to pay anywhere from $400-$800, retail. You can find deals online or end of season sales in stores to lower that number. I would say a "good" price for quality cashmere is anything below $300. I would call it a steal if you can get it in the $100 range. I believe TSE is made in China, but they use Italian cashmere. I've heard they use the same yarn as Ralph Lauren Black Label. But, I could be wrong. I would say any cashmere made in Italy or Scotland is going to be top quality. China has some great cashmere as well, however, they are the largest producer of "cheap" cashmere. So brand really does have a lot to do with quality when it comes to cashmere, unfortunately. You pay for the label AND the quality in this case. I haven't seen any made in Japan that I can recall. Thank you for your question!

Admin said...

Could you comment on the quality of Everlane's cashmere? It's getting great reviews, but I found it to be slightly rough to touch.

Cashmere Connoisseur said...

@admin - I've never heard of Everlane before but rough to the touch is a BIG sign that the cashmere isn't good quality. It might be "cashmere" but wouldn't have passed the quality control people in the 50's lol. Good cashmere won't be rough to the touch, even on the most delicate skin. I have extremely sensitive skin (can't wear wool of any kind) but I can wear good quality cashmere just fine. I often test the quality of cashmere by rubbing it on the inside of my forearm or my stomach. If it's prickly at all, it's a no-buy for me!

Govind Raj said...

i am going to work with cashmere kind of products, what are the manual test need to be carried to confirm the quality.