Cashmere is obtained by combing through the goats’ fine undercoat, which is covered by coarser outer wool to withstand the extremely cold temperatures on the high-altitude, Central Asian plateaus. Its name comes from the Kashmir region, between India and Pakistan, where these animals are originally from, although Kashmir goats are also easily found in Tibet and Nepal. Today, the world’s major cashmere-producing countries are China (specifically the Inner Mongolia region) and Mongolia, followed by others in Central and Southwest Asia such as Iran, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Outside of Asia, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Italy have stood out as minor producers.
The unique characteristics of cashmere production, based on herding nomadic goats in an arid, cold region, are behind this fabric’s traditionally high price. As a matter of fact, it takes four goats to get enough raw material for one sweater. Afterward, the wool must be cleaned, refined, packaged, and transported to factories where the garments will be made, then shipped to stores. With such a supply chain, one might wonder how it is possible to find cashmere items in Europe for less than 100 euros. The answer lies in reducing costs throughout the entire process. Unsurprisingly, this has a negative impact on the environment and on the most vulnerable part of the chain, which is the herders.