The history and origins of cashmere

Cashmere is made from the processing of the hair of the Capra Hircus that lives on the Tibetan highlands, in the Himalayas and principally in Mongolia. This animal produces a particularly fine wool that is soft and warm, which protects it from the harshness of winter (-40° C). After the animal moults, or after shearing, its hairs are selected (depending on the selection, you will get a higher or lower quality cashmere), cleaned and then woven into threads. The number of threads used gives, in general, a fairly precise idea of the thickness of the fabric: from thin (2-ply) to very thick (10-12-ply). Cashmere is much softer, warmer and more isothermal than sheep's wool. You can wear it directly against the skin (it does not produce itching, unlike wool). When you try a nice pullover in cashmere for the first time, it becomes very difficult to return to ordinary wool because it is particularly uncomfortable.

It is said that, in the thirteenth century in some caves in Mongolia, Marco Polo discovered representations of wild goats, domesticated by man. It is therefore likely that some shepherds raised these goats, capable of providing a particularly warm wool, a long time ago. A blessing for those regions that have very harsh winters. Only in the nineteenth century did Europeans discover, to their amazement, the precious wool that would later be known as kashmir. The uplands of Ladakh and Tibet in the Himalayas are the regions of authentic cashmere wool. The Capra Hircus lives at an average altitude of 4000 meters, an animal that, now domesticated, is also known as the Pashmina goat. To cope with the long winter, which lasts six months, and to withstand temperatures that can reach -40°C, the animal is covered with a thick wool coat formed of long hairs. It is this animal, which is between the European domestic goat and the dwarf goat in terms of size, that provides the extraordinary wool that has made the term "cashmere" famous worldwide.

The Cashmere "harvest"

In spring, when the air heats up, the goat loses some of its hair. During this period, you can gather the valuable wool. Cashmere can be harvested in two ways, depending on whether the goats are still wild (mainly in the Himalayas), or domesticated (mainly in Mongolia). In the Himalayas, a completely artisanal and eco-friendly method is used: when the goat is hot, it rubs against rocks and shrubs to speed up the moulting, leaving behind many clumps of hair. The local mountain people then walk throughout the mountains to collect the mythical fluff. A goat produces only 100 grams of usable cashmere, so in order to make a pullover, the wool from at least 2 goats is needed, but can range up to 6 goats. Mongolia is a huge arid, desert region (larger than Italy, France, Germany and Spain combined), the least densely populated on the planet, which is in fact split into two countries: Mongolia is properly known as "Inner Mongolia" which is an "autonomous region of China." 70% - 80% of the world’s population of Capra Hircus live in this region. Their breeding remains very traditional and makes a significant contribution to the sustenance of a traditional rural population.

Why is it called "kashmir", if the material does not come from the Kashmir region?

Simply because the processing of the precious wool first developed in the region of Kashmir (India), as a result of the Silk Road. The name of this region has thus become the generic name of the fabric. Since then things have changed, as Indian production, having failed to evolve, has been considerably marginalized. Despite this, the majority of travellers who go to India continue to buy very cheap "Pashmina" as souvenirs, however these are actually made of 100% viscose: authentic cashmere is expensive in any country you buy it.

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