Allude founder and creative director Andrea Karg has already talked about her passion for cashmere here in the magazine . A magical material, no doubt about it. But where does this luxurious raw material actually come from, where does our cashmere couture have its fascinating origins?
The journey there begins in a valley at the foot of the Himalayas. It is here in the province of Kashmir that India, China and Pakistan meet, making the region and its historic trading post of Srinagar an important stop for caravans on the Silk Road. Culture and commerce from the Near East, Central and South Asia never came closer together than in the rugged Kashmir valley with its short, dry summers and bitterly cold winters. Temperatures between a maximum of 35 degrees above zero and 35 degrees below zero challenge the residents just as much as the flora and fauna.
Even the robust cashmere goat defies the not exactly cozy weather, neither frost nor rocks nor heights of up to 5000 meters spoil its mood. The animals are nimble on their feet, frugal eaters and with their coarse outer coat and thick, warming undercoat, they are well adapted to their environment. Cashmere goats also found a home in Mongolia, as well as in Iran, Nepal and the Central Asian highlands. However, most live in very mountainous China, an estimated 130 million animals.
In the Himalayas, cashmere blankets and clothing have been part of the essential equipment of nomadic tribes for many centuries. The first indications of this can be found as early as the 3rd century BC. The finest cashmere then became a valuable commodity from around the 15th century. Scarves made from it – called “pashmina” after the Persian word for wool – were real bestsellers on the markets from Asia to the Roman Empire.
In the course of colonization, cashmere was exported en masse via India to Great Britain and France. Such delicate clothing simply could not be made from European sheep's wool, and the ladies of high society in the late 18th century were attracted to the soft, warming accessories. Very practical for the fashionable neo-classic with its short-sleeved dresses, which has just become a trend! Empress Josephine described as late as the early 1800s that she owned hundreds of pashminas. Luckily, since then we have learned to design a lot more from the unique cashmere wool than just scarves: from the twinset of the 1950s, the knitting boom of the seventies to real cashmere couture by Allude.
But back to the brave goats in the Himalayas and elsewhere. Nothing has changed in the extraction of the coveted material to this day. In spring, during the change of coat from April to June, nomads comb out the dense and valuable undercoat with a wide-toothed comb and sort it by hand. Scissors are not recommended for the animal or for the cashmere material, because the coarse outer hair is not used. The color spectrum varies, the fur of the cashmere goats is sometimes white through gray and brown to black. The yield is quite low compared to the high effort. About 100 to 150 grams per animal can be combed out per year, with billy goats providing slightly more wool than their female counterparts. A small amount, considering it takes the down of three to six goats to make one sweater. Even a multiple for a cardigan. Who is surprised that pure cashmere is so precious.
The shepherds then bring their "comb prey" to regional collection centers. Despite the use of machines, the necessary separation of fluff and upper hair, the so-called awns, is still a demanding procedure and only a few experienced specialists have mastered this strict sorting perfectly.
Now the cashmere makes its way to various spinning mills, and once again suitable machines are needed to spin the finest yarns from the carefully selected raw material. Every yarn producer has his own secret process for optimal processing. These innovative tricks and inventions make it possible to spin threads of amazing fineness and tear strength.
You will notice that behind this luxury good lies true craftsmanship, the passion of many people from near and far and, you can say it like that: a wonder of nature. So that you can enjoy this treasure with all your senses - from the cashmere dress to the wonderfully soft pillowcase - we at Allude accompany every step, no matter how small. From combing to spinning to knitting and almost to your closet. We owe it to you, our customers, and to the rich, mystical history of this unique material!