Part 1: The Fleece
Garnet Hill design gurus Karen and Erin recently set their email autoreplies to way-out-of-office and journeyed 6,000 miles from New Hampshire to Inner Mongolia. They set out to visit the happy goats and talented makers who bring our cashmere designs to life. This is the story, in three parts, of their adventure…
If there’s an upside to driving three-and-a-half hours down a bumpy dirt road to the remote region of Inner Mongolia where Kashmir goats graze, it’s that your FitBit thinks you walked a thousand miles that day. Have a donut, it suggests, you’re good.
Our designers made this trek not long ago to observe goats and herders – their well-being, and the origins of the cashmere fleece widely considered the finest anywhere.
Karen and Erin met generations of goats and generations of herders. They were welcomed into the home of the village chief, and feted with indigenous cuisine and music.
There were demonstrations of how to gently trim a Kashmir goat’s outer guard hairs, revealing the precious cashmere fibers underneath. It’s done annually in the spring, entirely by hand, which helps the goats relax. (It’s like brushing one’s hair, and they really seem to enjoy it.) The result is enough raw cashmere per goat per year for between two thirds of, and one of, our sweaters.
These purebreds are treated like pets, never crossbred for higher yields as some farms do. Purebreds produce the highest-quality fibers.
We learned that grazing land in the area has improved in recent years, benefitting from more frequent rains. Government officials visit to check soil conditions, and deploy drones to monitor grazing practices and ensure that animal density doesn’t exceed the limits of responsible land management. This avoids overgrazing and helps to preserve the grasslands. And when the animals have room to roam, pests are not a problem, so pesticides are not needed.
This wasn’t our first trip to Inner Mongolia, and it won’t be our last.
And we’ll always bring along a Garnet Hill Cashmere Wrap for the plane ride.
Read Part 2, about spinning fleece into fiber.
Read Part 3: The Form