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Cashmere sweaters

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
Good Afternoon Gentlemen, It's begun to get chilly,so I've decided to add a quality cashmere sweater to my wardrobe. A Few Questions: -Could you please recommend labels to look for? I'm familiar with Loro Piana,but other suggestions would be appreciated. -How do I distinguish good quality cashmere? -Lastly,can you recommend any websites where I might find the best value in a cashmere sweater? Thank you in advance for your help. RCCH
post #2 of 42
The site is down right now, but this site has good info: Keep an eye out for qiviut (musk ox) as well, it's approximately the same price as the highest quality cashmere (well... wholesale, at least) but it's finer and warmer. It's somewhat more rare than cashmere though, so finished products (which are harder to find) may be more expensive. I think kamkyl makes one in the high end range.
post #3 of 42
you will mostly find 2ply cashmere offerings, which are fine. I saw in Brooks Brothers yesterday a 3 ply sweater for $275... I looked it over and felt it... couldn't tell much difference between it and 2 ply personally. As far as labels... I have always liked Polo's cable knit crewneck sweaters... they are classic and well made. Don't pay the site or store's $400 for them though... they can ALWAYS be had for half that on the site or stores in after-winter sales, or even cheaper on Ebay. I have 1 in ivory and 1 in baby blue and love both of them. Link to them: Everyone seems to be making them again now that cashmere is "back"... you'll find all the big dept. stores (macys, nordstrom) have a house brand for a decent price... quality I am not sure of. Names you can trust from my experiences: Loro Piana, Malo, Ralph Lauren, Barbera, Zegna. These are the type of item that will sell a lot throughout the winter, but not enough that you won't be able to find really good deals on them in a few months. I'm looking for 1 more cash. sweater and a wool coat, but am holding off until February, March when the big sales come.
post #4 of 42
Well, I'm also in the search for cashmere right now. I actually got the opportunity to shop w/ Steve in Atlanta, and of course he was able to point out a few things to me. Look for cashmere out of Italy or some obscure place that you've never heard of. If it says Taiwan or China, chances are it's not something you're going to want. Pringle has some beautiful argyle cashmere sweaters out right now, I bought a few and love them. Michael
post #5 of 42
I really don't know much about cashmere. Haven't bought any yet as I live where it's pretty warm. What I've heard is that Mongolian cashmere is best, and Italian next best. Brandwise I've heard Malo and Loro Piana are great, and Pringle and Forte are also good. I believe Neiman's, Sak's and Nordstrom's (Clan McDonald, or something like that) house brands are also pretty good. I also agree with BBB on Polo. Polo's cashmere sweaters have a great hand, although I'm personally not big on cable knit, which are the only ones I've seen. And I think BBB's strategy is excellent for tracking down bargains. Robb Report may have better, more expensive labels listed as Best of the Best, but these sweaters are probably beyond the means of most of the Forum members, including me. Most of the above names have web sites. If you guys can't find them through Google or Dogpile, I'll be happy to post them. BTW, Michael, thanks for the mention. Haven't seen you online much lately...How are things?
post #6 of 42
What I've heard is that Mongolian cashmere is best, and Italian next best.
Sorry to knit-pick (heh) but cashmere wool comes from central Asia, right? It's refined/spun/knitted in such places as Scotland and Italy, not originated in those places. Or do they actually keep those kinds of goats in Europe?
post #7 of 42
I've got a couple of Ralph Lauren (blue) cashmere sweaters, one red crewneck and a gray v-neck, and, while they're nice sweaters by most standards, you can really tell that they're from a somewhat lower echelon of cashmere sweater. The v-neck isn't cabled, and it piles pretty heavily. Both knits are kind of flimsy. They're also made in Hong Kong (or something similar), the two RL sweaters. I'd recommend Paul Stuart, or maybe the Andover Shop. I know Andover gets their sweaters from Murray Allen, which is a good knitwear manufacturer in Scotland. Everything Paul Stuart does seems to be of high quality. Malo's stuff is always good, Loro Piana yeah, and Pringle's pretty good. Dunno if Inis Meain does cashmere sweaters, but I got an alpaca sweater of theirs from Louis and it's very good. The nicest sweater I own is an old gray crewneck from Paul Stuart that's about 30-35 years old.
post #8 of 42
Another link detailing cashmere in general, and specifically, cashmere yarn: FYI, a typical sweater would probably take 250-500 grams (5-10 skeins) of yarn to knit, depending on the ply of the yarn (how many strands twisted together). Raw materials are already in the $200+ range, so you can see how a cashmere sweater can get expensive. (I make no excuses for Zegna, however, who produces a blended cashmere and cotton cardigan in the $750 range...) The qiviut (musk ox) I mentioned earlier has hairs in the range of 12 microns thickness, which is finer than any cashmere on the planet.
post #9 of 42
Thread Starter 
Thank you gentlemen,for all of your advice. I look forward to a rewarding hunt. RCCH
post #10 of 42
Oops I missed this thread when it was posted. Cashmere is a favorite topic of mine and it is by far my favorite fabric. The best cashmere is indeed from inner mongolia. The marketing spin is that the climate there is the cause for the wonderful coats on mongolian goats and that only in Mongolia can the softest and warmest cashemere be produced. While this may be true historically, natural selection does not stop people from breeding the mongolian goats elswhere. Natural selection says that the goats with the finer and warmer coats will live to the time where they can reproduce and pass on their "warmer and finer" genes to offspring. Over time, the ones with warmest coats will be the only ones left. Taking the goats out of Mongolia to warmer climates won't (at least over the short-run), however, change the warmth of their or their offsprings'coats. The claim in the first paragraph is essentially true however since 25% of world cashmere is accounted for by mongolia and mongolian cashmere is on average the most uniformly fine and long. China on the other had accoutns for 60% of world production but it's on avg. lower quality stuff since the focus on volume. Cashmere "from" scotland and italy is merely spun there. This is gonna turn in to an essay heh.. The quality of the cashmere is dependant on a few things and quality can be increased or reduced at many stages of "production". Price is obvioulsy directly related to quality. When the cashmere is combed off the goats, it's tangled, greasy, and has lots of dirt and other things mixed in. The first step is sorting the cashmere by color, which ranges from brown (most common), to grey, to white(which demands the higest premium). Then they need to separate all that other stuff from the cashmere. Also of note is the length and thickness fo the fibers. Zegna is currently running programs in Mongolia to teach herders how to recognize better quality cashmere and separate it from the rest so that they can get more money for it and breed their best goats. Good quality cashmere fibers are 32+mm long and at most 16microns in diameter. If the fiber is under 25mm and fabric made from it will pill a lot easier. When you're buying from quality labels like loro piana or zegna, you're getting the finest and longest cashmere available with almost all impurities removed although it's understandibly impossible to guarantee there won't be a single coarse hair in your sweater. Cheap mass-produced cashmere is likely to have a higher content of <25mm fibers. They will pill and they won't feel as soft. They'll also have a lot more coarse hair mixed in because the factories that remove impurities aren't as attentive to quality as factories that might be owned by zegna, for example. The reasons you can find cashmere so cheap these days is because Mongolia is now a free-market economy and the goat population has increased since restrictions on herd size (in both china and mongolia) have been removed. China is also producing a lot more than it ever has. Quality of the raw materials has also dropped a lot in recent years (thanks china). Some people trying to increase the size of their herds apparently breed the kashmir goats with angora goats (who don't produce as fine a fiber). Herders don't really know the difference between the fibers and that's why zegna has embarked on it's campaign to increase their knowledge of the whole cashmere process. Zegna did the same thing for Merino sheep btw. The superfine wools we have these days (<19.5 microns in diamter) are in large thanks to zegna who educates herders and awards prizes to those with the best sheep (the best ones are in Australia). This year's winner had a sheep who's merino wool fibers were 10 microns in diameter. Fineness and length aren't the only important factos, uniformity of the fibers is hugely important as well. Oh btw, I think the finest cashmere ever obtained was 9-10 microns but there was only enough of it for 1 or 2 suits. Zegna didn't said who got them, but I'm sure if they sold it as a finished suit it would have easily fetched well over 50k heh ;p On to the actual garments themselves: -Don't buy anything under 2-ply; the reason for this is the way the fabric is twisted, not the thickness. If you buy 1-ply, the final garment won't be as strong. Anything over 2 ply just affects the weight of the fabric, not strength -lots of the cheap stuff is mislabeled. manufacturers mix in synthetics or fibers from other animals. -some of the cheaper garments are made of coarser, shorter fibers. Anything over 21 microns diameter starts to itch. Anything under 25mm in lenght will pill very easily. -high quality cashmere has a lustre to it and feels incredibly soft. I assume this is why wardrobe consultants for tv shows always seem to dress their stars in cashmere suits on TV; it looks incredible under the lights. On tv, even civil servants get cashmere brioni suits these days ;p Anyway, if you stick to high end manufacturers you can't really go wrong. I've got cashmere from Malo, Loro Piana, Zegna, Brioni and Canali. They're all of high quality. I've had cheaper cashmere in the past and it's definitely not as soft. I can say for sure that they're all worth the price paid. Personally, I loathe the mass-produced cashmere now saturating the market. Cashmere is supposed to be a luxury fiber. Now people are payign $80 for a sweater and thinking they have cashmere. Call me an elitist or a snob, but it just pisses me the hell off when someone compares Loro Piana to Lands End or BR ;P Do yourself a favor though and stock up on cashmere during xmas sales. The high quality stuff isn't cheap. ;p Davei: Often the price of the fabric isn't necessarily determined solely by the constituents. In the case you stated, I've read that it's really not easy to bond the cashmere and cotton fibers together properly. Is it worth $750? That's hard to say, but since you said it's Zegna I'd say probably. I've never considered anything by Zegna over-priced. Zegna is one of the few companies in the luxury goods market that I would say represents true value to me; Salvatore Ferragamo is the other one. Both companies could probably charge more than they do and sell just as much volume. If it's $750 then there's probably a reason for it. With regard to Qiviut, I hadn't heard of the fiber before. I looked it up and it is indeed 12 microns but the thing that has me wondering is if it's such a good fiber for textile use, how come the likes of Zegna or other mills haven't latched on to it?  After all, firms like Zegna love rare fibers. Vicuna sells for ridiculous amounts of money because the animal that produces the fiber was hunted almost to extinction by the 60s and now there is strict regulation. The fabric is harvested only once every 4 years by herding the wild animals into a circle and shearing them on the spot, out in the wild. They only get 120g of useable fiber per animal. It's kinda funny actually, if you're ever flipping through fabric swatches, you'll see that the vicuna swatches are little larger than a square heh. Qiviut may be a fine fiber, but it must be missing something imo and I'd hazard a guess that maybe tensile strength is the problem since I've never seen it in any boutiques and I've never seen a qiviut swatch. Surely if it was so great, people would make use of it and sell it for vicuna-like prices (I actually saw qiviut prices and they're really not very steep). Something's missing from the complete picture.. Actually now that you've got me thinking about it, Qiviut is gathered and produced by Inuit. I bet there's some government legislation preventing anyone else from touching the stuff heh.. Dunno why they don't jack up the prices a bit.
post #11 of 42
Thread Starter 
GQ Geek, Thank you for the in-depth info on cashmere. As a younger man,I was given a beautiful dark teal w/gray trim v-neck cashmere sweater;softest one I'd ever owned. Alas,I outgrew it. With any luck,I'll be able to find a replacement that isn't too extraordinarily expensive.
post #12 of 42
That was really quite the discourse GQG. It's always nice to meet another Zegna fan...
post #13 of 42
Personally, I loathe the mass-produced cashmere now saturating the market. Cashmere is supposed to be a luxury fiber. Now people are payign $80 for a sweater and thinking they have cashmere. Call me an elitist or a snob, but it just pisses me the hell off when someone compares Loro Piana to Lands End or BR ;P
Isn't democratization generally a good thing?  Where would we be, for example, if only rich people could go to college?
post #14 of 42
GQG: Qiviut is indeed harvested by Inuit, and I'm fairly certain it's the restrictions (and to a greater degree, marketing) that have kept it under the radar. Price-wise it's about the same as the highest quality cashmere. Since it's finer, its tensile strength is also lower, also I remember reading somewhere it's harder to dye properly. I bought quite a bit of the yarn, but only the natural (brownish/grey) and black (which is more grey than black) colors appealed to me. The fiber has great potential for garments, but would be a tough sell for marketing (after all, would you want to wear the hair from a musk ox?
post #15 of 42
I saw a qiviut knit tie at Harrod's in London. It was nice, but at 500 pounds, it was the single most expensive tie I've ever seen.
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