As I write this, the wind is rustling the leaves outside my window. It’s late in the afternoon, and I’m sitting with a flat white to my left, Magnolian’s Famous Men album playing in the background, and I’m decked out from head to toe in Mongolian cashmere. Sweater, pants, socks, and all.
I’ve just arrived back from a summer in Ulaanbaatar, and I refuse to wear anything else (well, until it’s time to put on real pants and leave the house, at least). Because before I left the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky, I stocked up on the best souvenirs of all time – loads of Mongolian goat cashmere.
And not just for me, a scarf for mom, a coat for a friend, socks for those family members I usually forget about during the holidays – all straight from the source, all softer to the touch and more beautiful than words can ever get across.
Because that’s what you get in Mongolia. Cashmere, baby. Why? Well, because as a product, cashmere is eight times more insulating than regular sheep’s wool, providing superior insulation. It’s wrinkle-resistant, making it a great travel companion. It’s breathable but also moisture-wicking. Meaning, thanks to its high moisture content, as the humidity changes, so does its insulation. This means comfort in all climates. Plus, with fibers that have water repellent exteriors, it’s the interior that attracts water, keeping moisture, like sweat, away from your body.
It’s also hypoallergenic and fire-resistant. Yes, you heard me right, cashmere has natural fire-resistant properties, so when it’s exposed to fire, it may smoke, but it will never melt onto the skin and will self–extinguish.
There are plenty of places in the city to find fabulous pieces, and the benefits of supporting this industry are very real. And, if you were today years old when you realized most of the world’s cashmere comes from Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, then keep reading. More of this goat-to-coat information might blow your mind.
Read our Weather in Mongolia: 10 Reasons Why Spring and Fall are Really the Best Time of Year to Visit for even more reasons to experience Mongolia – and Mongolian cashmere – for yourself.
The Basics: How is Goat Cashmere Made?
No matter where in the world you are, most goat cashmere comes from goats in Northern China and Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Mongolia is home to more than 27.7 million goats. Compare that to the country’s population of 3.2 million, and that’s more than eight goats to every one person in the country.
Cashmere comes from the hair under a goat’s coarse overcoat, where beneath a layer of superfine fibers around the underbelly is found. Come spring, the goats molt their beautiful winter coats that kept them warm all winter, leaving behind the fibers for locals to comb and sort by hand before selling to a cashmere buyer. From there, it goes to a facility where it’s cleaned and refined. The majority of the refined goat cashmere is then shipped to countries such as Italy, England, China, Germany, and Japan, where it will be spun into fine yarn and eventually made into garments.
Unless, of course, it stays in Mongolia where brands such as Gobi Cashmere, Goyo Cashmere, and Naadam Cashmere use the cashmere to make their own fine yarns that they’ll use to create beautiful Mongolian-made cashmere pieces. More on that later.
Read our Looking For Stunning Landscapes And The Most Beautiful Drone Videography In The World? For a beautiful look at the Gobi Desert and everything it has to offer beyond cashmere.
It’s said that cashmere from Mongolia is cruelty-free. The cashmere is shed, not sheared, and is then hand-combed by Mongolian herders in the traditional way that dates back more than 2,000 years.
Goats aren’t killed for cashmere, and because they aren’t sheared either, they aren’t forced to spend the last days of winter without their fluffy winter coat – a significant problem in other cashmere-producing parts of the world. Without their winter coats, goats are more susceptible to freezing to death if sheared too early.
Mongolia’s cashmere goats shed in the spring, around May or June, depending on the weather. To experience this side of Mongolian herder life, you can easily embed yourself with a family and witness the process firsthand.
Photo by Max Muench
About Mongolian Cashmere
Mongolian cashmere accounts for the country’s third-largest export, after copper and gold. The Zalaa Jinst white goat, the only entirely white breed of the cashmere goat, is found in Mongolia’s southern provinces. It’s often considered the most sought-after cashmere in the world.
What makes Mongolian cashmere so warm is that it comes from an area of the world that reaches -40 C/F in the winter and where icy sandstorms are just another regular occurrence.
Imagine how good the garments will be if these fibers can protect and keep herds of goats warm all winter long. Approximately four goats contribute to making one cashmere sweater.
To wash Mongolian cashmere, and goat cashmere in general, there are two super simple tricks.
The first step in washing your cashmere is to use baby shampoo or cashmere-specific liquid detergent. Fill your sink with lukewarm water, add your baby shampoo or cashmere detergent, gently swirl your Mongolian cashmere, and let soak for up to 30 minutes.
Next, lay your Mongolian cashmere out to dry on a bath towel. Gently roll the sweater like a sushi roll for optimal drying without stretching. It works like a charm every time.
When in Ulaanbaatar: The Best Places to Buy Mongolian Cashmere
The best places to buy Mongolian cashmere in Ulaanbaatar, and beyond.
Just off Sukhbaatar Square and next to the Parliament Building, the Gobi Cashmere store is worth stopping in, even if it’s just to window shop. And by window shop, I mean browsing hundreds of garments in the world's largest cashmere store.
With two floors of the season’s best spread across a 2,500 sqm showroom full of everything from coats to sweaters, vests, pants, leggings, scarfs, gloves, hats, and everything else in between, if you don’t find something you like in this cashmere oasis, you better check your pulse. Because once you get your hands on one of these garments, especially ones from their organic line, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Known as one of the top cashmere brands globally, Gobi Cashmere was the first factory in Mongolia to receive the International Quality Trophy and Certificate by implementing ISO-9000 international standards. Today they proudly export 98% of their products around the world.
Shop online and get goods shipped to almost anywhere in the world at GobiCashmere.com.
Having merged with Gobi Cashmere back in 2019, Goyo continues to be one of the top brands in the world for high-quality goat cashmere. Goyo was launched in 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union as the first private cashmere and wool company in Mongolia (Gobi Cashmere was a government-run company at that time).
Making a name for themselves in fashion capitals worldwide, from Paris to London and New York to Hong Kong, Goyo’s fun and playful cuts, colors, and commitment to producing the highest quality cashmere in Mongolia make it a brand worthy of anyone’s attention – and dinero.
Shop online at Goyo-Cashmere.mn.
Read our Why Mongolia is One of the Best Drives in the World guide for even more insight on planning a trip to Mongolia.
Straight from the source, high-quality Mongolian cashmere that cuts out the middleman, so herders see more profit? That’s the Naadam promise.
Committed to transparency, intention, and authenticity, the guys behind Naadam stand behind their promise, even releasing Social and Environmental Impact Reports (2020) outlining their commitment to sustainability and progress through 2025.
Their commitment to ethical practices doesn’t stop there. Naadam works directly with the Gobi Revival Fund around climate change, desertification, and overall risks to traditional ways of life that affect the communities they work with. Through that partnership, they’re able to invest time, energy, and money in veterinary care, livestock insurance, and grassland management for the herders they work with and support.
While Naadam’s cashmere products are beautiful, so is their purpose. And that’s just as important.
Shop online and get goods shipped to almost anywhere in the world at Naadam.co.
— Article by Breanna Wilson
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