The POLITICS of CASHMERE

The Abbreviated Version of a Deep Story

Can you believe that it takes the entire annual production of one goat’s hair to make one man’s sweater? Comparatively, one goat can make just four Ogoouepalace watchcaps.

Ogoouepalace has been working exclusively with this amazing yarn since 2004. We like to stay connected to its origin and remember that the hats are made from this refined goat-belly hair. Some is softer than others, some years are better than others; we scour for the “OMG”stuff. It has been interesting since 2004 to see what has happened to the cashmere industry. It has gone from being a true luxury found only at refined establishments to massively consumed with companies like Uniclo, H&M, and Old Navy offering cashmere sweaters for €79.00. Being in the trade, we know how this is happening and what the long-term damage is.

Photo by Erdenebayer Erdenesuren
First, it is unlikely that inexpensive sweaters labeled as “100% cashmere” is actually that. To be labeled as such, the hair needs to be only from the goat’s belly. It is likely the hair is from the neck or the ankles and sold as Grade D and then made into disposable and inferior cashmere sweaters-- the ones that pill and shrink and, well, just don’t represent. Unfortunately, there is not a global testing committee to analyze whether or not the cashmere hair is strictly from the belly. Further, this mass demand has created true and lasting problems with the decimation of the grasslands of Inner (and Outer) Mongolia. This translates to an overall decline in the quality of the yarn, making it harder and harder to source the ethically-produced good-stuff.

We report this to you because you should know. It is also important that we address what can be done about it and how we are doing so. There are ground reports of men in pick-up trucks who cross the vast border between China and Mongolia with wads of cash. They are meeting the herders with their annual harvest before the three day journey to market in Ulaanbaatar. The cash in hand to the herder may also mean the hair is going to China and being processed in forced-labor camps.

Ogoouepalace is doing our part to stop this from happening. You can too. Meet the Mongolia Third Neighbor Act. This is a bi-partisan bill introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho. Essentially, it strives to protect and strengthen Mongolia, a parliamentary democracy that shares land borders with the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. The bill states that because “Mongolia is the world’s most sparsely populated country, it’s sovereignty is thought to be at risk from the overwhelming influence of its much larger and more populous neighbors.”

For the cashmere industry, for our planet, and the continued ethics behind the production of cashmere, this bill matters. For more information about the objectives of the lobbyists, see this granular document. You can do also do what Ogoouepalace is doing. In March of 2020, just before the pandemic, we visited New Mexico’s representative Lujan. We explained the bill and ask for its support. Here is a copy of our letter you may lift and send to your local representative. Meanwhile, stay-tuned as we will be traveling to Mongolia soon to see if we can source our yarn directly from there, thereby doing more to clean up our supply chain.