Cashmere is the chocolate ganache of clothing. The peak of luscious indulgence, it washes over you in warmth, triggering the pleasure centers of the brain to hedonist heights. It makes you melt a little inside.
Like the dreamiest desserts come from superior ingredients, cashmere also calls for a particular recipe for luxury. Except instead of a farm-to-table story, cashmere’s is a farm-to-closet. Take high-end Italian brand Loro Piana, the largest cashmere manufacturer in the West, whose sumptuous fabrics get their start in the mountainous regions of Mongolia and northern China.
Roaming the vast horizons of this tough terrain are Hyrcus goats, Loro Piana cashmere in the making, under the watchful eye of their goat herders. But this horned herd suitable for the J. Peterman catalog isn’t one you’ll find on farmland stateside. The hostile habitat has produced on these goats an exceptionally soft and fine undercoat beneath their equally rough outer coat. According to the U.S. Wool Products Labeling Act, cashmere fibers must not exceed 19 microns. The wool of these herds averages 14.5 microns.
Gathering the goats’ under-fleece is a craftsman’s task entirely. During these harvesting months of April and May, goat herders skillfully hand-comb the goats to extract the maximum amount of wool – about 250 grams each – while keeping the animals harm-free. The goats sure seem to get the sweet end of the deal here – a gentle belly rub against a layer of the finest wool in the world? Yes, please – especially since wool harvesters are then tasked with separating the coarse hairs of the outercoat from the fine fleece. And because Eli Whitney didn’t create a cashmere gin, the process is painstaking, leaving about 100 grams of world-class cashmere fibers per goat. Little surprise, then, that pieces like Loro Piana’s Natalie cashmere knit set, a stripes-on-white wide-neck sweater and scarf, runs $2,100.
Since we’re talking about the most luxuriant knits in the world, why not upgrade even further? Even rarer than wool from the Hyrcus goats of Mongolia and northern China is the wool from – you guessed it – baby Hyrcus goats of Mongolia and northern China. Yes, just as human kids’ skin is superior to adults’, so is kid cashmere. Combed out only once between the age of 12 months, Hyrcus goat kids produce an itsy bitsy 30 to 40 grams of usable under fleece at just 13 to 13.5 microns per fiber. One pullover uses the fleece of 19 kids. An overcoat needs 58.
Loro Piana is credited with “discovering” this ultimate ingredient for a luxury knit, which at one time was thrown in with the adult fibers. These limited edition pieces tips the scales of opulence, with items like the Deneu Baby Cashmere single-breasted blazer at $5,995. For $640, you can drape your baby (human) in a Baby Cashmere onesie – in Loro Piana terms, Tutina Treccia.
If you’re in the business of affording the finest, softest, sustainably hand-harvested cashmere from rare breeds across the globe, plus that premier Italian styling, the price may seem downright reasonable. Besides – back to the culinary metaphor – quality more than a presentation of extravagance dictates the meal. Fleur restaurant the Mandalay Bay in Vegas offers a $5,000 burger, though it’s crafted with wagyu beef, foie gras, truffle and served with a ’95 Chateau Petrus. A Vegas big-winner gimmick, for sure, but folks dish out the same for doses of coveted Beluga sturgeon. The moral here: Whether dished out or hung up, top ingredients merit top price.
But a sweater lasts longer.