Winter is not over yet and we all know how an outfit or a special piece of clothing can help battle the winter blues. Cashmere is the ultimate cold season wardrobe staple, which, with its unrivaled softness and comforting warmth, does not only make it your daily luxury, but also a cosy remedy for the freezing days. Furthermore, it can easily transition into spring (more details below), so if you’re thinking to treat yourself to something of the kind now, you won’t have to wait until next winter to wear it. But what exactly makes it so special and how do we invest in a long-lasting quality item? To that end, I have tapped Catherine Robinson of Catherine Robinson Cashmere (which specialises in the most beautiful cashmere knitwear – the ponchos are my weakness – and accessories, made in Mongolia, the land of the finest cashmere), to provide a few inside tips on why and how to buy, care for and store cashmere.
Why should one spend good money on cashmere?
The quality of cashmere is determined by the width and length of the fibre… long, thin fibres are the best quality and will get softer over time, making your cashmere purchase a great wardrobe investment. Good quality cashmere has a high price tag, but you won’t be disappointed, because, with care, it should last a lifetime.
How can you tell the quality of cashmere? How do you try it before buying? Are there any particular details you should look for?
There are several ways to tell the quality of cashmere. The tension in the knitting should enable you to stretch a section and it should, as you say, ‘ping’ back into shape. There is a density to quality cashmere.
Don’t be fooled by too much fluffiness, this indicates a shorter, weaker fibre. More expensive cashmere is often not as soft to the touch initially, but will soften with wear and hand washing. As I said before, the best cashmere actually improves with age.
Ply relates to the weight, not the quality. Additional piles add weight and colour options, but they do not add extra quality. How tight the garment is knitted is referred to as the gauge; my knitwear is 2 ply and the gauge varies from 7 through to 12.
How challenging is it to sell cashmere online, especially to a first-time customer?
Well, it certainly was in the early days, I was new, nobody had heard of me, I had to get out there and show my products. I did many shows across the UK building my brand and clientele base. Once people became aware of the quality of my products and, in addition, were able to read customer feedback, an increasing number of people were very happy to purchase. My blog has helped enormously with overseas customers… the power of social media! I do, of course, offer a returns policy should any customer not be satisfied with their purchase.
Why are the Catherine Robinson Cashmere products special?
They are a beautiful gift to either send or receive. The quality of my products makes them very special, they are simple elegance and beautiful to wear. I have had customers say ‘they feel special when they wear my ponchos’. For me, it doesn’t get better than that. My cashmere is wrapped in tissue paper and ribbon and I always enclose a personalised, hand-written note thanking my customer for their order and this is presented in a ‘Catherine Robinson Cashmere’ box. My customers love the box as they are then able to store their knitwear in it. It all adds to the enjoyment of the purchase and that is always special.
How do you make sure cashmere lasts a lifetime? How do you wash it? How do you store it?
Like everything that you wish to last a lifetime, you have to take care of it. To ensure your cashmere retains its beauty, you must take care of it. I recommend hand-washing or professionally dry cleaning your knitwear. My cashmere does wash well on the delicate/hand wash cycle, although many prefer to hand-wash their garments themselves. Make sure the water is lukewarm (30 degrees), turn the knitwear inside out (you can pop in a laundry bag too, if you prefer), squeeze the excess water gently, do not rub or wring the garment. Re-shape and dry flat.
Friction can cause tiny balls of fluff to appear on new garments. This has nothing to do with the quality of the cashmere, it happens to the most expensive you can buy. Regular washing helps to prevent this and a fabric comb used gently will remove any pilling you may have, and, with regular care for your cashmere, this will stop. When storing, remember moths are less attracted to clean knitwear. It is a good idea to store your knitwear in a breathable zipped plastic bag.
Cedar Wood Balls are a must for all cashmere lovers as they are very efficient at repelling moths, mildew and mustiness.
Cashmere care is very important to me and I am sourcing a mist spray and detergent to add to my cashmere care products. Hopefully, they will be available by early spring.
Cashmere is the ultimate winter-wardrobe luxury. Can it make a transition to spring too?
Yes, definitely. The beauty of cashmere is it is warm in the winter and cooler in the spring. One of the reasons I introduced my 088 style poncho is it is a lighter, finer weight and ideal for Spring/Summer months. Many of my customers love to travel with their ponchos and wraps, as the luxurious cashmere doesn’t wrinkle, the perfect travel accessory! Alongside my finer ponchos, I now have the finer buttoned cashmere poncho, which is incredibly versatile and the ideal Spring/Summer chic cover up. Just to let you know, Ada, I work very closely with my manufacturer in Mongolia on new designs and products.
photos: courtesy of Catherine Robinson Cashmere