or Connect
Styleforum › Forums › Men's Style › Menswear Advice › Does "Italian cashmere" mean anything?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Does "Italian cashmere" mean anything?  

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

JCrew sells what they call "Italian cashmere" knits. See example of Italian Cashmere Zip Hoodie for $375 right here. You'll see on that link that there's no photo of the tag on the garment, there's no indication that the hoodie is 100% cashmere and there's no explanation for why I should care that it's Italian cashmere.

 

I mean, what kind of Italian cashmere? Surely there are different grades of cashmere spun in Italy, just like there would be if it were spun in Scotland or Japan or the US. Yet they're charging $375 for the hoodie, which puts it in the higher-end.

 

Questions: Is this just marketing bullshit? Without touching the garment and solely relying on the website, how in the world can I tell that this is quality cashmere? Does the fact of the cashmere being Italian mean a damn thing?

 

Would love to know what the community thinks.

post #2 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by FopTalk View Post
 

JCrew sells what they call "Italian cashmere" knits. See example of Italian Cashmere Zip Hoodie for $375 right here. You'll see on that link that there's no photo of the tag on the garment, there's no indication that the hoodie is 100% cashmere and there's no explanation for why I should care that it's Italian cashmere.

 

I mean, what kind of Italian cashmere? Surely there are different grades of cashmere spun in Italy, just like there would be if it were spun in Scotland or Japan or the US. Yet they're charging $375 for the hoodie, which puts it in the higher-end.

 

Questions: Is this just marketing bullshit? Without touching the garment and solely relying on the website, how in the world can I tell that this is quality cashmere? Does the fact of the cashmere being Italian mean a damn thing?

 

Would love to know what the community thinks.

You can't tell if it is good quality cashmere without touching it.  I suppose that if it is from one of the better Italian mills, which the copy in your link purports that it is, it will be to a certain standard. Even then, it is hard to tell at first glance, especially for a layman, and even for clothiers, really, for anyone except for textiles people who deal specifcially with this type of thing.  With wear, you will see how it wears and pills (note, cashmere is not a hardy material in any case).

 

You can't see the tag, but even if you did, that would show nothing.  If you really care, you could call J Crew's CS, and I am sure that they would tell the composition.

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
You can't tell if it is good quality cashmere without touching it.  I suppose that if it is from one of the better Italian mills, which the copy in your link purports that it is, it will be to a certain standard. Even then, it is hard to tell at first glance, especially for a layman, and even for clothiers, really, for anyone except for textiles people who deal specifcially with this type of thing.  With wear, you will see how it wears and pills (note, cashmere is not a hardy material in any case).

 

You can't see the tag, but even if you did, that would show nothing.  If you really care, you could call J Crew's CS, and I am sure that they would tell the composition

Good call (re: contact JCrew CS). Thanks for the quick feedback, LA Guy!

 

Yeah, I suppose you can't tell the quality of cashmere without touching it, and I would suppose that observation would apply to most every fabric. But certainly there are signs or clues (besides the price and the brand), like maybe the colour vibrancy, the weight, the gauge or ply?

 

Also, does the origin of the raw cashmere signify quality (i.e. Mongolia vs. China vs. Afghanistan)?

 

Could you (or anyone else) rank the different Italian cashmere mills? Are Italian cashmere mills generally better than, say, Scottish or American or Japanese ones? 

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by FopTalk View Post
 

Good call (re: contact JCrew CS). Thanks for the quick feedback, LA Guy!

 

Yeah, I suppose you can't tell the quality of cashmere without touching it, and I would suppose that observation would apply to most every fabric. But certainly there are signs or clues (besides the price and the brand), like maybe the colour vibrancy, the weight, the gauge or ply?

 

Also, does the origin of the raw cashmere signify quality (i.e. Mongolia vs. China vs. Afghanistan)?

 

Could you (or anyone else) rank the different Italian cashmere mills? Are Italian cashmere mills generally better than, say, Scottish or American or Japanese ones? 

Someone else would have to rank the different mills.  Even if they could "rank", however, I assume that, just like for any manufacturer. it would be more accurate class mills in groups according to what they are capable of producing.

 

The yarn gauge and the ply number are not good indicators of quality, but they will tell you a bit about the weight (and perhaps sturdiness) of the garment, as well as the cost.  A thick 12 ply sweater made with a high gauge yarn will cost more than a 2 ply, gauzy sweater, just because of material costs.

 

The "Best Italian Mill" is a curious bit of marketing.  I think that J. Crew has been pivoting from the marketing being "In Good Company" to "J. Crew is awesome", and this seems to be an wierd in between moment - they want to focus the product story on J Crew, but can't resist mentioning that the cashmere is from a very good specific (though unnamed) mill.

post #5 of 12

Sadly country of origin is no longer a good indicator (or even proxy) for quality in production of today's clothes. Not only do international trade flows allow companies to misrepresent actual country of origins, but on top of this there is large variability in quality. Additionally, synthetic fabrics have gotten fairly sophisticated (at least in the short run, without wear) so sometimes 'touch' is not the best indicator either. Barring taking it into a fabric lab, your best bet is to call JCrew CS. However, even with that ~$375 seems rather steep for a cashmere sweater from Jcrew.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
 Sadly country of origin is no longer a good indicator (or even proxy) for quality in production of today's clothes. Not only do international trade flows allow companies to misrepresent actual country of origins, but on top of this there is large variability in quality. Additionally, synthetic fabrics have gotten fairly sophisticated (at least in the short run, without wear) so sometimes 'touch' is not the best indicator either. Barring taking it into a fabric lab, your best bet is to call JCrew CS. However, even with that ~$375 seems rather steep for a cashmere sweater from Jcrew.

Thanks, CMCR!

 

Your insights lead me to a related question:

 

What exactly determines the "Made in (Country X)" that appears on garment tags? Are there local and/or international trade statutes and regulations the coherently manage the issue?

 

Like you said, "international trade flows" must make this a complicated matter. 

 

EX: Sweater says "Made in Italy". Does that mean it was designed in Italy, manufactured in Italy, the raw materials originate in Italy, the fabric was spun or weaved in Italy, does that mean that part of the cost is an export trade tariff from Italy?

 

Maybe my cynicism is unwarranted, but I've always assume finagling goes on. Certainly the "made in Italy" tag is a coveted thing among clothiers as they must know that your average consumer will pay more for a garment that says "made in Italy" versus the same garment that says "made in China". I get the sense that when consumers see "made in Italy", they conjure up some romantic image of an old Italian man with a lined face labouring over every stitch in the garment from his atelier in some idyllic countryside village; for the "made in China" Italy, the image is of some bleak, dystopic horror show where automaton Chinese soullessly put the garment together piece by piece along a 100-mile long assembly line.

 

I've also asked myself why many people automatically assume something is no-good if it says "made in China". Strikes me as a sort of cultural prejudice. 

 

If you or anyone could try answering this, I'd be grateful.

post #7 of 12
I think as long as the item was finished in Italy, it can say made in Italy. I don't think it has to start productions in Italy. Made in whatever country is just where it's manufactured. Doesn't mean the cloth or materials come from same country.
post #8 of 12
Quote:

What exactly determines the "Made in (Country X)" that appears on garment tags? Are there local and/or international trade statutes and regulations the coherently manage the issue?

 

Like you said, "international trade flows" must make this a complicated matter. 

 

EX: Sweater says "Made in Italy". Does that mean it was designed in Italy, manufactured in Italy, the raw materials originate in Italy, the fabric was spun or weaved in Italy, does that mean that part of the cost is an export trade tariff from Italy?

 

 

Unfortunately, FopTalk, your cynicism is wholly warranted. Luxury goods companies are not above playing to your mind's dandyish flights of fancy with regards to skilled Italian craftsman laboring away in rustic Neapolitan villas. Most goods, despite labeling, are not wholly true to their country of origins. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the larger the company (e.g., JCrew, BrooksBrothers, Armani, etc...) the more likely there is foul-play at hand. This is because due to the US Department of Homeland Security's import rules (see handbook: https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/icp006r3_3.pdf), under multi-country assembled goods (Section (3)  in the handbook), when multiple countries are involved in production and assembly there is priority given to the most recent country of assembly, or to the country where the most "important processing operation" occurred (comically enough up to a government agent's 'discretion', and therefore lobbying). So do not always believe what you read on a label. While this kind of business is normally prevalent in leather goods production (e.g., specifically wallets, handbags, belts, etc...) some companies are not above this for textile goods, specifically when targeting 'location-aware' buyers.

 

The reason why we care about 'Scottish' or 'Italian' Cashmere is because, way back when, these are where the world's best textile mills were located. If you think about it, cashmere, a yarn that is fostered in cooler climes (named after the Kasmir state of India), has no place being produced in Italy. The only reason we would care about its production there would be due to the spinning of the actual yarn from the raw material.

 

All of this is not to say that this sweater is not actually spun, assembled and manufactured in Italy. In fact, if priced off cost, then the price would reflect this. However, more often than not companies will cut corners, leave the same label on, and charge you the same price. Due to an individual's complete inability to have full information with regards to the products we're buying, I would say just evaluate it on face-value (e.g., touch, price, perceived quality, the shamelessness of the sales people, etc...) and use that to make a gut decision and, once purchased, don't re-think it.

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Most goods, despite labeling, are not wholly true to their country of origins. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the larger the company (e.g., JCrew, BrooksBrothers, Armani, etc...) the more likely there is foul-play at hand. This is because due to the US Department of Homeland Security's import rules (see handbook: https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/icp006r3_3.pdf), under multi-country assembled goods (Section (3)  in the handbook), when multiple countries are involved in production and assembly there is priority given to the most recent country of assembly, or to the country where the most "important processing operation" occurred (comically enough up to a government agent's 'discretion', and therefore lobbying). So do not always believe what you read on a label

Thanks again, CMCR! Very on point.

 

I know better appreciate the "made in X" issue, but do you know if, beyond marketing to "location-aware buyers", there might be other economic interests at play? I'm thinking of government coffers being filled with tariffs. My understanding is that clothing is one of the more highly tariffed sort of goods in terms on international trade, so maybe the Italian government has an interest in having the "made in Italy" tag? Or maybe there are tax incentives or government assistance programs that kicks in?

 

Maybe I'm misunderstanding how this all works, so I'd love to be enlightened.

 

Quote:
 The reason why we care about 'Scottish' or 'Italian' Cashmere is because, way back when, these are where the world's best textile mills were located. If you think about it, cashmere, a yarn that is fostered in cooler climes (named after the Kasmir state of India), has no place being produced in Italy. The only reason we would care about its production there would be due to the spinning of the actual yarn from the raw material.

 

I've read that Brunello Cucinelli raise and tend to their own cashmere goat herds in Italy. I know that Cucinelli is really into vertical integration and making sure the whole supply-chain begins and ends in Italy. I understand this to be part of a sort of socialist, fair-and-local production ethos by Mr. Cucinelli, though I suppose it's also a marketing strategy to appeal to consumers, even though it significantly inflates the price of the finished garment.

 

Does anybody know if the fact of Cucinelli raising and tending to its own cashmere goats in the same town that they do all their production translates to better quality for the consumer?

 

Also, relatedly, I've read that true pashmina cashmere wool (not the synthetic, fraudulent crap most people might find in their local Chinatown) is still manufactured by artisans in Nepal, but that the word "pashmina" and the supporting industry is completely unregulated, so there's really no way to ascertain if it's the good stuff (i.e. finer and smaller fibre diameter than standard cashmere). While standard cashmere is in the 15-19 micron range and Loro Piana's baby cashmere and vicuna wool rank at about 13.5 microns and 12.5 microns respectively, the finest pashmina cashmere comes in at 11 microns (but it seems kinda moot when the word "pashmina" is unregulated and made by local artisans who I'd imagine haven't lab-tested the stuff).

 

Can anybody confirm this for me?  

 

Quote:
Due to an individual's complete inability to have full information with regards to the products we're buying, I would say just evaluate it on face-value (e.g., touch, price, perceived quality, the shamelessness of the sales people, etc...) and use that to make a gut decision and, once purchased, don't re-think it.

Amen, brother. I appreciate there's a limit to what can be known as things get more and more granular and, at the end of the day, it helps to ask yourself what the value is of geeking out on these details, but, that being said... I guess I'm a hopeless geek. :)

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by FopTalk View Post
 

JCrew sells what they call "Italian cashmere" knits. See example of Italian Cashmere Zip Hoodie for $375 right here. You'll see on that link that there's no photo of the tag on the garment, there's no indication that the hoodie is 100% cashmere and there's no explanation for why I should care that it's Italian cashmere.

I've spent a bit of time recently trying to read and understand the various laws, regulations, and guidelines for product labeling and marketing in the United States, with a focus on textiles and leather products.  If you look at photo number 3, you'll see a neck tag that says "Italian Cashmere".  Based on my understanding of what I've found, the law is a garment must be 100% cashmere to be labeled in this manner.

 

The rules require any label / stamp / tag / marking that makes any claim of fiber composition must give the full composition.  So, if a sweater is 80% cashmere 20% nylon, a tag cannot simply say "Cashmere", or "Italian Cashmere", or even "Cashmere blend" - it must say "80% Cashmere 20% Nylon" if it makes any mention of the composition.

 

There is an FTC guideline that deals with almost this exact situation: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/cachet-cashmere-complying-wool-products-labeling-act

 

Usual disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, this is just my best understanding of the rules.  Not legal advice yada yada yada.

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:

If you look at photo number 3, you'll see a neck tag that says "Italian Cashmere".  Based on my understanding of what I've found, the law is a garment must be 100% cashmere to be labeled in this manner.

 

The rules require any label / stamp / tag / marking that makes any claim of fiber composition must give the full composition.  So, if a sweater is 80% cashmere 20% nylon, a tag cannot simply say "Cashmere", or "Italian Cashmere", or even "Cashmere blend" - it must say "80% Cashmere 20% Nylon" if it makes any mention of the composition.

 

There is an FTC guideline that deals with almost this exact situation: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/cachet-cashmere-complying-wool-products-labeling-act 

 

Thanks for the FTC guideline link! Will definitely be using it a lot. I'm also quite surprised at how good the writing is, considering it's a government website.

 

Mind you, while photo number 3 says "Italian Cashmere" on the neck tag, it doesn't say "All Italian Cashmere" or "100% Italian Cashmere", which is what the FTC dictates it must say if in fact the product is made of only one fiber. And I quote:

 

"If a sweater contains cashmere mixed with sheep’s wool and the label refers to cashmere, the label must accurately disclose the content, for example, 80% Wool, 20% Cashmere. It would be illegal to say simply Cashmere or Cashmere blend without stating the percentages. One exception to the requirement that percentages be stated: the word All can be used in place of 100% if the product is made of only one fiber; for example, All Wool or All Cashmere."

 

I should mention that this link does not say that manufacturers must indicate "100% cashmere" or "all cashmere" when the garment is indeed fully one fibre, simply that they can, however, if it's blended with another fiber, the blend proportions must be indicated.

 

This begs the question: assuming the hoodie is fully cashmere, why would JCrew choose not to indicate "100%" or "all" when those coveted monikers are legally available to them? The absence of blend proportion indication on the neck tag might suggest it's full cashmere, considering JCrew has a clear legal obligation to indicate blend proportion if it's anything less than 100% cashmere, but this is only the neck tag, not the inner tag along the side seam, which, in my experience, is where fiber proportions are often indicated. From what I've read so far, the FTC does not mention this issue of two different tags indicating different information; it seems to only speak of hang-tags, product labels and care labels. But what if there's two product labels, one saying "Italian cashmere" on the neck but then indicating a blend on the inside product label?

 

So, methinks JCrew might be hoodwinking us here. Thoughts?

 

In passing, I am an actual lawyer, but only in Canada and this is not at all my field of practice, so this cannot and should not be interpreted as legal advice or creating any solicitor-client relationship.

post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by FopTalk View Post
 

 

Thanks for the FTC guideline link! Will definitely be using it a lot. I'm also quite surprised at how good the writing is, considering it's a government website.

 

Mind you, while photo number 3 says "Italian Cashmere" on the neck tag, it doesn't say "All Italian Cashmere" or "100% Italian Cashmere", which is what the FTC dictates it must say if in fact the product is made of only one fiber. And I quote:

 

"If a sweater contains cashmere mixed with sheep’s wool and the label refers to cashmere, the label must accurately disclose the content, for example, 80% Wool, 20% Cashmere. It would be illegal to say simply Cashmere or Cashmere blend without stating the percentages. One exception to the requirement that percentages be stated: the word All can be used in place of 100% if the product is made of only one fiber; for example, All Wool or All Cashmere."

 

I should mention that this link does not say that manufacturers must indicate "100% cashmere" or "all cashmere" when the garment is indeed fully one fibre, simply that they can, however, if it's blended with another fiber, the blend proportions must be indicated.

 

This begs the question: assuming the hoodie is fully cashmere, why would JCrew choose not to indicate "100%" or "all" when those coveted monikers are legally available to them? The absence of blend proportion indication on the neck tag might suggest it's full cashmere, considering JCrew has a clear legal obligation to indicate blend proportion if it's anything less than 100% cashmere, but this is only the neck tag, not the inner tag along the side seam, which, in my experience, is where fiber proportions are often indicated. From what I've read so far, the FTC does not mention this issue of two different tags indicating different information; it seems to only speak of hang-tags, product labels and care labels. But what if there's two product labels, one saying "Italian cashmere" on the neck but then indicating a blend on the inside product label?

 

So, methinks JCrew might be hoodwinking us here. Thoughts?

 

In passing, I am an actual lawyer, but only in Canada and this is not at all my field of practice, so this cannot and should not be interpreted as legal advice or creating any solicitor-client relationship.

This threw me for a bit too when I was reading up on this, but in the end I think everything is in line with the rules.  Here's a summary of what I think is going on:

 

First, some background for amateurs like myself (not being a lawyer it took me a bit of time to get up to speed on all this)

- In the United States there are two applicable laws, often called the Textile Act (15 U.S.C. § 70) and the Wool Act (15 U.S.C. § 68).  The Textile Act covers labelling of all garments of any material, the Wool Act has special rules for wool products.

- The FTC is charged with enforcing these laws, and these two laws lead to two sets of regulations, often called the Textile Rules (16 CFR 300) and the Wool Rules (16 CFR 303).  These give the FTC interpretation of these laws for enforcement purposes.

- The FTC issues guidelines to help manufacturers, distributors, etc. ensure compliance with the laws and regulations.

 

Now, on to this situation:

- The Textile Rules and Wool Rules both require all applicable garments have a tag / label disclosing fiber content, with percentage composition, e.g. 80% wool 20% nylon. Let's call this the main tag.

- There is no location requirement for this tag.  As mentioned it is often found on the side near the bottom in sweaters.

- If the item is composed of only one fiber, such as cashmere, "All cashmere" and "100% cashmere" are the only legally allowed labelling methods, on the main tag.

- The Textile Rules and Wool Rules also both require a neck tag (on garments with a neck) indicating the country of origin.  Hence "Italian Cashmere" on the J Crew sweater. 

- The neck tag is not required to disclose the fiber composition.  However, fiber composition may be disclosed on the neck tag. 

- I don't think there is a general language requirement for giving fiber composition in the neck tag.

- However, and finally, the Textile Rules say (CFR 300.16c) that multiple tags may provide the same information, but "any non-required information or representations placed on the product shall not minimize, detract from, or conflict with required information and shall not be false, deceptive, or misleading."

 

I think this last part is why the FTC guideline say that any tag which makes any claim of composition must disclose the full composition.  For blended items, such as 80% wool 20% nylon, secondary tags must give the exact percentage composition, so as not minimize / conflict with the information on the main tag.  However, for items composed of one fiber, this is not an issue. A tag saying "Italian Cashmere" is entirely true if the garment is in fact 100% Italian cashmere.  As there is no other language requirement for the neck tag for items composed of one fiber, it's fine to simply use "Italian Cashmere".

 

 

At least, this is how I understand the rules.  And again, I'm an amateur without much experience reading and interpreting laws and regulations.  I may be completely off the mark here.  

 

As to why J. Crew doesn't use "100% Italian Cashmere", I'm not sure.  It would seem that would make the item more desirable. 

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Menswear Advice
This thread is locked  
Styleforum › Forums › Men's Style › Menswear Advice › Does "Italian cashmere" mean anything?