Thursday, January 20, 2011

Style Speak - Cashmere

One of the last positions I held at my previous employer was the Product Knowledge Coordinator.  Sounds kind of boring right?  Well, it was actually really fun.  I was in charge of translating designer speak to the masses, and educating the sales team on the latest collection.  I would view the line each season, and put together fun books that would detail the design team's inspiration, talk about the latest trends and fabrics, and basically give the sales team the tools they would need to help sell a high-end suit.  The above book became my best friend.   When one of our designers would say a term I had never heard before, I would quickly reference this book and then nod in agreement, like yes, of course I know what the new Ikat trend is all about.  Fooled them all!  HA!  Now, my brain is filled with more trivial fashion knowledge than I may ever need.  To read past issues of Style Speak, go here and here

Cashmere: A fine, soft, downy wool undergrowth produced by the cashmere goat, which is raised in the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan and parts of Northern India, Tibet, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, China, Iran and Iraq.  Similar goats can now be raised in the United States.

I've never owned a piece of cashmere before now.  And this piece I virtually got for free through my job (consider it a benefit for driving up and down the 710 freeway on a daily basis).    I have to say that while it's nice and soft, I don't know if I'd spend my own money to get another piece of cashmere.  I've always heard ladies talk longingly about cashmere sweaters and cashmere gloves and even cashmere socks.  And to own a piece of TSE, well that would be the dream of all dreams.  But for me it's always been meh, take it or leave it.  I guess I'm too much of a spend-thrift to ever have invested in a good quality sweater, and with the limited access to actually wear a cashmere sweater for long periods of time here in Southern California, it never seemed worth my investment.

With that being said, I can see why women would fall in love with cashmere.  It's a natural fiber, so it is breathable, even in warm weather.  If you get good quality cashmere, it is softer beyond belief, and again, because it is a natural fiber, it has the ability to hold onto dye extremely well, lending itself to a rich and saturated color palette that won't fade after multiple washings. 

In terms of quality, there is a difference.  Now is about the time you will find plenty of cashmere on sale at department stores that are trying to clear out old Christmas inventory.  Cashmere will vary in softness, density and some will be more prone to pilling than others.  Pilling happens when the shorter fibers separate from the longer fibers in the yarn, and is a natural component of all knits including cotton and wool.  However, quality cashmere is made with only the longest fibers, therefore pilling is minimum.  And then there is the whole issue of 2 ply cashmere versus 4 ply cashmere.  It can get your head spinning trying to decipher what is what. 

In terms of quality and price, with cashmere there is a direct correlation, so be aware up front that you get what you pay for and the clearance $39 cashmere sweater from your favorite department store may not stand the test of time.  Chances are if your salesperson can't speak to the quality, than you may want to move on.

While I cannot attest to the J. Crew cashmere quality, I'm hoping that at the price, there is some level of quality.  Here are a few cute pieces that I thought 'might' be worth the investment.  Or perhaps just waiting until they go on super duper final slashed price clearance (that is a term I just made up, not a real retail term).  I've got the budget to consider, right? 
I love the cowl neckline and the side button detail at the hip.
This is a fun and sporty boatneck sweater.  I love all the different necklines in fact.
This color has me intrigued more than anything.

So what TSE you, do you own any cashmere?  Would you invest in a piece or would you rather just save for your kid's college tuition, or payoff some of your own student loans?


  1. Okay, so I have a confession. I have never owned anything made of cashmere. I'm afraid I'll love it so much that I'll need to buy more. So I just stay away from it. Same reason I've never had a massage. I don't want to know what I'm missing.

    But I adore that cowl neck sweater!

  2. I have a couple of cashmere sweaters. Both were purchased ON SALE, but on sale as at the Ralph Lauren outlet for $40, and the other was a J. Crew hoodie on sale for $90. Both were great investments that I've had for years and still wear, but they are dry clean only. I bought a J. Crew cardi in the hundred dollar range back when I was working. I still have it, but i hasn't held up as much as the other 2, though it's still wearable. It seems to be a thinner material and is more prone to snags.

  3. I love my cashmere scarf and swear by it all winter.

    So fun to read this post (really pretty sweater by the way) because you talked clothes & fashion, but told a little story about yourself.

  4. My Great Aunt gave me two "100% Cashmere" ( per the tags on the inside?? ) trench coat type jackets, before she passed away, and they are my absolute favorite timeless things I own.

  5. I have some cashmere sweaters and a two cashmere scarves and I LOVE them. I wear the lots and they're definitely favorite pieces.

    And you can hand wash cashmere, you just have to be very careful not to agitate or it'll start to felt & shrink.

  6. I own a bunch of cashmere that I have bought over the years. Some are really nice quality, some not so much. And you'd be surprised how much you really WILL wear it here in So. Cal. Some of my lighter cashmere pieces work great right up to Summer believe it or not!

  7. a few years ago i made a promise to myself to only buy cashmere or cotton and swore off wool sweaters because they make me so itchy. believe it or not i wear them all year long (in the summers i wear my cardigans at night) so i think they are definitely worth the extra $$. i bought a good friend that cowl neck sweater from J.Crew for Christmas (at 40% off) and she loves it. hasn't pilled like some of their lower end cashmere sweaters will.

  8. i am such a huge fan of stripes and that lovely green color!!

  9. I'm cashmere-less. 'Tis true.

    But thank you for addressing my theoretical concern about pilling. I've always wondered.

    Also, I am not digging the Ikat trend. Can we still be friends?

  10. ooh, that cowl neckline is really great. Thanks for educating me on cashmere! I love it but only wear hand-me-downs from my friends! :)

  11. I would love a cashmere sweater.What great knowledge you have. How awesome to be so educated in this field!

  12. i do not own any cashmere, and have never even tried it on. but i wouldn't mind to have one, although i don't typically spend that much on clothes. i really like the ones you pictured here!


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