The unrivalled warmth and softness of Cashmere ensure its enduring reputation around the world, with scarves, jumpers, and blankets in high demand. But with high street retailers marketing this coveted fabric at lower prices, you might wonder if one Cashmere garment is much the same as any other. And what determines the cost of Johnstons of Elgin’s Cashmere products? From raw fibre to finished piece, we treat our Cashmere with the greatest of care. Read on discover what makes our Cashmere so special.
Not all Cashmere is equal, and we are incredibly selective in the qualities we use. We buy 15 types of Cashmere, each carefully selected for the properties it brings to the process. Our quality standards mean we must work hard to find suppliers capable of meeting our expectations. Most of our suppliers have been working with us for decades and do not supply the mass market.
Low-cost Cashmere garments are often produced in high-volume factories using inferior raw materials containing coarse, dark or short fibres. It has often been heavily bleached to remove colour, which saves costs but damages the fibres.
Many of these differences will be difficult to notice on the shelf. Bleaching fibres and adding softeners after processing can make a product feels soft but will shorten its lifespan when you get it home.
When you buy a Cashmere product from us, you can be sure it is made with the best raw materials and has been crafted with the greatest of care.
We source the finest possible Cashmere to create our soft, luxurious products, choosing long, lofty fibres from China and Mongolia. To stay warm in freezing seasonal temperatures, often as low as -30°C, Cashmere goats grow a thick fleece, which herders gently comb when it begins to ‘float’ in Spring. While sheep can produce around 3kg of wool in a year, the Cashmere goat only gleans about 200g, so while we might need the production of a single goat to make a scarf, it could take as many as ten goats worth of Cashmere to make a jumper or cardigan.
Our Cashmere is carefully chosen for its colour, thickness, and length. Mongolia produces long, fine fibres in a grey or light brown hue, and China has the finest, whitest shades. We work with the natural properties of the Cashmere, closest in colour to our finished products, to avoid bleaching the delicate fibres. The quality of the Cashmere is graded on its fineness and length, and a high-quality single hair can be as thin as 14 micrometres.
Jackie Dean is a Raw Materials Technician in Quality Assurance at Johnstons of Elgin, in charge of fibre testing all the company's Cashmere and Wool. She is known in the industry for her meticulous testing, primarily done by hand and eye.
'It's all about getting stuck into it and getting it done to enable the dyehouse to start its process. It can be quite stressful, but you can't pass it if you don't know it's correct. We always get there in the end. The quality is the most important thing.'
Once Cashmere has been dyed, it is aerated to stop the fibres from clumping together. We handle the fibres carefully throughout all processes to minimise damage and preserve the unique handle. Carding detangles the fibres and prepares them for spinning, after which the yarn can be used to make all kinds of clothing and accessories.
The secret to making the highest-quality Cashmere products is being as gentle as possible. The same soft and slightly alkaline water used to make Scottish whisky is the basis of our manufacturing process, and we minimise the use of chemicals too.
We have worked with Cashmere fibres since 1851, and many of the skills and processes used to take it from fibre to finished product have been passed down through generations. There is much more to creating a simple scarf, for example, than first meets the eye; many hands go into everything we do.
We like to treat our Cashmere with the utmost care. Our old, belt-driven carding machines, which comb the fibre to align all the strands, might look like antiques, but we continue to use them as they treat the fibre very gently. Throughout our process, you will find the latest technology beside beautiful old equipment, often with wooden components. At every stage, including dyeing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing, our mantra is to do as little as possible, as gently as possible.
What amazes visitors to our mills is how much of the process is done by hand. Over two dozen hands will work on every product we make. You can see and feel the difference in the small things, such as the press of a collar, the even twist of a fringe, and the satisfying raise of a Cashmere scarf. Our team are dedicated to perfecting their craft and creating beautiful products.
At Johnstons of Elgin, we are making something special. Our Cashmere products are incredibly warm but lightweight, easy to wear and long-lasting.
They are as far away from disposable 'fast fashion' as possible.
The best quality Cashmere in the world.
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