Who doesn’t like Cashmere? I mean if you haven’t tried wearing pure grade cashmere I can tell you-you’re missing out on one of life’s little luxuries. But, I hear you it’s expensive in most western countries and why when I’ve travelled to places like Nepal and China, this is one of those must-have shopping items you need to search for. When I lived in Shanghai I made it my mission to find the best source I could to get the real deal. There are heaps of places you can buy cashmere around China, but the cashmere markets are where it’s at.
Cashmere Shopping in Shanghai
You might think you know your shopping in Shanghai because you’ve mastered the fake markets and can haggle on the streets like a local, but cashmere is like gold to most fashionistas and serious style makers because it’s usually so damn expensive in western countries.
Well, not in Shanghai — a good quality (and we mean “very good” quality knit) is going to set you back in the range of RMB250-400/ $40-65 USD, which is about 75% cheaper than what you’re going to get in most western countries. “But surely it’s fake like everything else at the markets,” we hear you cry!
Well, simply no. Not fake — it’s the real deal, but like all markets in China, there are good store holders and not-so-good store holders. You need to know the difference between good quality yarn and cheap quality yarn if you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash.
A few tips on how to shop at the cashmere markets:
- Ply: A high ply means the more weighty the feel of the garment, then the more expensive the garment. It’s not the thickness of a garment though. Ply is the number of strands twisted together to achieve a certain thickness. Most cashmere comes in 1 ply or 2 ply strands of yarn, which is then knitted in various ways.
- Thickness v’s Thinness: The thickness of a knit has nothing to do with the quality of the cashmere. So you can have a thick knitted jumper in 1 ply that is cheaper than a thin knitted jumper in two-ply for instance. Also, very thin garments are often woven with silk so you need to ask what the percentage of silk is to gauge if you’re getting a true cashmere garment. Pashminas, on the other hand, are always woven with around 30 percent silk, which makes it stronger because it’s a weave and not a knit.
- Color: You can get cashmere dyed in just about any color of the rainbow but the darkest colors are usually harder dyes or have been dyed a couple of times to get a very dark hue, so naturally these pieces often don’t feel as super soft as lighter colored pieces.
Why Buy Cashmere?
There is no comparison. Even if you live in a warmer climate, there is nothing more chic than a cashmere light-weight knit over summer white jeans or flowing maxi skirt. It suits all shapes and sizes and like the classic white shirt, it goes with everything.
Cashmere sweaters are the perfect last-minute option in winter to throw over jeans when you want some style, and also want to feel super warm and cosy but not too over-layered. They look just as good tucked into a pencil skirt for business chic as they do casually over a T-shirt and denim jeans for the weekend. They also make a cheap pair of jeans instantly look more expensive and look on trend with a large statement necklace for this season. Once you’ve owned cashmere, you’ll really have a tough time going back to anything else.
Here’s some more inspiration:
Cashmere comes from Kashmiri, the Tibetan name for the Kashmere goat. It comes in different grades, so you do get what you pay for, (i.e. the softness and highest grade comes from the underbelly of the goat, which is not exposed to the harsh climate).
If you think it’s not worth your while because it’s too expensive, think again. You’ll get 10 years of life out of every sweater you own in cashmere as opposed to 1 or 2 season’s worth with a sweater made of another fiber and there really is nothing like the softness and quality you feel when wearing cashmere.
To care for your cashmere you must hand wash it with a mild shampoo or baby shampoo in lukewarm water, no wool mixes, as cashmere is actually the hair of a goat and not a wool. In other words, you need to treat it like you would you’re own hair — with some TLC.
A couple of fashion stylists we know also swear by putting the cashmere in a brown paper bag and freezing for 24 hours to reduce pilling. Never ring it when wet; rather lay it on a towel, flat to dry.
A good quality cashmere knit at these markets in Shanghai should set you back anywhere betweenRMB250-400 depending on the style and thickness. That’s around USD$40-$65, which as anyone knows is extremely cheap compared to retail stores in the US or UK.
After being a stylist for more than ten years ( you can see some of my work HERE and a small fashion video HERE) I can honestly say, a purchase of Cashmere is a long-term investment you’ll have with you forever. If you’re lucky enough to visit Shanghai, you’re in the best place to get the real deal.
If you’re living in Shanghai and any information on where to buy Shanghai changes, please contact me so I can update this article.