If you’ve bought a softer-than-clouds cashmere sweater and thought, “Damn, this sure was money well spent,” only to have it frizz out and fall apart within a month, you’re not alone. It’s happened to the best of us.
While it might seem sensible to buy inexpensive cashmere sweaters, investing in high quality versions will not only mean you can wear it for longer, but they also require less care than you might think. But how do you know if you’re getting high quality, and how do you take care of it once it’s yours?
To learn the best tricks of the trade, we turned to Matt Scanlan, the CEO and co-founder of Naadam, an ethically sourced cashmere label. Scanlan’s on-the-job training was about as extreme as you can imagine: he’s a New York City finance guy who quit his job, went on vacation, found himself stuck in the middle of the Mongolian desert for a month with a herd of Kashmir goats, and ended up buying 60 tons of fresh-off-the-goat cashmere that he had to take care of until starting his own brand (and selling some of the excess to brands like Michael Kors and Hugo Boss).
“For us at Naadam, the biggest thing was learning how the material itself works. Because if you don’t know a lot about cashmere, you think it’s just a sweater. But it’s fragile,” Scanlan said. “It was really trying to get an understanding of what the characteristics are of the material itself.”
Below, Scanlan breaks down the basics of cashmere care, and he proves that, while delicate, it isn’t as tricky—or high-maintenance—as you might assume.
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Don't Pay More than You Should
Cashmere is one of those textiles that brings proof to the adage, “you get what you pay for.” Aim for $200 to $400 per piece, but don’t spend more than that.
“If you go over $400, the chances are you’re paying a company more [rather than paying for the product]. Maybe they have a nice brand or something. If you’re paying below $200, you’re just getting cheaper raw material. The $200-to-$400 range is a really good place to find something you’ll wear multiple seasons.”
Unfortunately, there’s no single, governing body policing the world’s cashmere. And because of that, Scanlan says, “There’s a shitload of cashmere in the world and a lot of it is really cheap, on average. It’s not that great. There’s more bad cashmere in the world than there’s ever been.”
So what can you do? Research. Find a company you trust, that either sources its cashmere sustainably. Chances are these companies price their product more honestly. Additionally, if possible, seek out sweaters that use longer fibers, which are more durable than shorter fibers.
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Don't Overwash It
The good thing about cashmere is that it’s a natural wool, meaning it's more durable and stain-resistant than cotton. Scanlan washes his sweaters once, maybe twice a season. If you spill something on your cashmere, cleaning is as easy as taking it to the sink, running cold water over it and washing the affected area by rubbing the two sides of the sweater together with baby shampoo. “Rub it out all the way, no sponge.”
To dry, you can either lay it flat, hang it on a broad-shoulder hanger, or do what Scanlan calls the “burrito move,” and lay the sweater on a towel and roll them up together.“Squeeze it really tight and leave it for a couple hours,” he says. “That’s a really good move.”
The only thing you definitely don’t want to do is throw cashmere in the dryer. The heat will boil the fibers, shrinking your sweater down a few sizes.
Credit: Getty Images