Cashmere is one of the most valuable and least understood fabrics. Like the vanilla bean, the second most valuable spice, cashmere is only available in significant enough quantitates seasonally--for cashmere, winter. Cashmere is actually goat hair, not fur, and grows on the belly. Due to the natural hair growth patterns of goats, the amount of cashmere produced is significantly smaller than the amount of hair produced on the rests of the goat. This natural scarcity paired with cashmere's unique properties is responsible for its high price tag.
While the percentage of cashmere in a garment can vary, so can the quality of the cashmere used. "100 percent cashmere nowadays doesn't mean anything," states Isabelle Essel of Hector and Lola. This is because cashmere comes in such varied degrees of quality, which is almost never expressed or even understood by the companies selling the cashmere.
Unfortunately, it's very difficult to gauge the quality of fabric by other factors such as price. While finding a premium quality cashmere garment for less than a hundred dollars is unlikely so is finding one for ten times as much. "The price doesn't mean anything, because some very expensive cashmere is of bad quality. Seller's know consumers don't know any better," states Isabelle.
One trick, I learned from Isabelle Essel of Hector and Lola is to pull the cashmere and see if it snaps back into its original structure. If so the garment is well made, if not than move on to another brand.
A common misnomer is that good cashmere doesn't pill, this is incorrect. All cashmere pills, however good cashmere will stop after several washes while bad cashmere will simply continue to pill to the point of being unattractive and unusable. Good cashmere will actually increase in softness the more its washed and should be able to easily withstand a machine wash in cold water. All cashmere should be left to air dry. Then the fabric should be combed with a cashmere comb, which can be easily purchased online from around five to ten dollars.
The reason high quality cashmere stars back is due to longer fiber length and a more tightly wound thread. The greater these factors, the higher the quality of cashmere. The difference in the end product is so stark that cashmere usually goes through multiple selling phases, with the highest quality fibers being sold on the primary market and the lesser quality being sold on the secondary market. In both markets cashmere is graded and then purchased by weight. The best quality cashmere can be found in the greatest abundance in Mongolia.
Hector and Lola was founded in France by Michel Weinberg and Emmanuelle Quenot (Weinberg). Before founding the brand, Michel worked as a clothing manufacturer and Emmanuelle served as the Head Designer for Sonia Rykiel. The brand focuses exclusively on cashmere garments and their pieces strike a perfect balance between trendiness and timelessness.
During their free time, they educate the public on the qualities and grades of cashmere. Their products are no longer sold in brick and mortar stores and can only be purchased through their online store front HectorandLola.com