Have you been itching to upgrade your wardrobe essentials with a cashmere piece or two but are uncertain as to how to get the best value? Well, you’re in luck because today I’m going to share all you need to know. Don’t end up with a sweater that pills and stretches after a few wears. Good cashmere in a classic shape should last decades!
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Grades of Cashmere
Knowing the grade of cashmere when making a purchase is one of the best, singular quality indicators you’ll find!
Cashmere is sorted into three grades: A, B and C with A being the best quality and C the lowest (in fact, the US government doesn’t even consider Grade C cashmere as cashmere). The grading process is determined by fiber thickness and length. Thinner, longer strands are the most desirable. Grade A fibers are typically 14-16 microns thick and 42 mm long compared to Grade B which is 16-19 microns thick and 34 mm long.
Thinner, longer strands result in products that are:
- softer, smoother and more uniform,
- more resilient (i.e., hold their shape), and;
- are less prone to pilling
Other Factors Affecting Quality
Fiber Country of Origin: Due to climatic and dietary conditions, Mongolian goats produce the thinnest and most premium quality hairs.
Fiber Color: The lightest goats have the best quality fibers. Not only are the lighter hairs thinner and longer but they also require less processing to hold dye. This results in a stronger and more environmentally friendly product.
Ply: Plies are the number of yarns that are used to make a single strand of knitted yarn within a garment. Having multiple plies results in a stronger garment although once you go from 1 to 2-ply yarn, quality doesn’t really continue to improve.
Country of Yarn Spinning: Spinning is the process of taking cleaned fleece and converting it to yarn. Italian and Scottish mills offer the highest level of spinning and weaving technology, as well as unsurpassed craftsmanship.
Country of Manufacture: Manufacture refers to the process of taking the yarns and forming them into a finished product. Again, Italy and Scotland are the world leaders in the design and assembly of knit products.
Highest quality pieces will be made using seamless construction. This method results in no seams being used on the side or shoulder of a garment, resulting in better fit and draping. Fully-fashioned knitwear is when pieces are constructed with no extra fabric and then knitted together at seam points. Shaping comes from special stitches used when knitting the pieces together. Cut and sewn garments cashmere garments should be avoided. Check your seams to evaluate!
Shop the Best Value Cashmere!
Budget Cashmere Values
Uniqlo is the de facto best choice when shopping budget cashmere. With a standard retail price of $79.90, Uniqlo offers the best opportunity for budget shoppers to get a good value in cashmere. The grade of their cashmere is not disclosed but is often assumed to be a blend of A and B yarns.
Mid-Range Cashmere Values
Natty Gal favorite Everlane offers some of the best-priced Grade A cashmeres on the market. Starting at $100, the Everlane yarns are sourced in Mongolia and spun on Italian machines in China. Grana’s price point is similar and yarn is also of Grade A Mongolian cashmere. Either of these brands will represent a much better value than cashmere from J. Crew or Banana Republic, which are more likely to be a blend of Grade A and B yarns.
Mid/Upper-Range Cashmere Values
If you are looking for good investment pieces, look no further than Cuyana and Naadam. Both of these stores offer cashmere akin to a $1,000+ piece from Loro Piana starting at about $250. Naadam even has a $75 unisex offering for those in the budget category.
For more on building a high quality, functional wardrobe, check out this series of posts. Thanks so much for stopping by! I always appreciate your support, sharing likes and follows. Until next time,