Closet 101 Style

On Cashmere

I am a cashmere addict. I love sweaters in general, and my favorite part of fall/winter is feeling cozy in a warm, super comfortable knit. And my warm fabric? Cashmere. Over the years I’ve amassed a slightly shameful collection of cashmere items…I buy at least a few per spring/fall season and can’t resist fingering the cashmere offerings from any clothing store I happen to be in.

Cashmere-2

Some of my favorites…and disappointments

The last few years however, I’ve noticed an unfortunate decline in the quality of cashmere from some of my favorite former main stays. Happily though, I’ve also found some great, lasting items…and some from really affordable designers.

Here are some of my favorite cashmere resources, as well as my nominations for best value, best overall, and worst in cashmere.

Best value: Old Navy/Gap, 360 Sweater

Gap/Old Navy: I list these two brands even though it seems that both have discontinued stocking 100% cashmere items. I wonder if it’s because there wasn’t demand (this seems unlikely) or if they were no longer to meet their quality standards at a certain price? It’s a shame because one of my most durable cashmere items is actually from Old Navy – a gray hoodie that I’ve never treated very preciously, yet it’s survived very well over the years. The zipper is higher quality that a similar J.Crew hoodie I tried out this year for something like 4X the price.

Edited to add that a wonderful reader, Poupak notified me that Gap is still stocking cashmere! I still need to get to the stores to take look but my pick is this cashmere hoodie.

360 Sweater: One of my favorite workhorse cashmere sweaters is from 360 Sweater – a deep v-neck boyfriend style called the Luci. I bought it on a whim and probably wear it every week. It’s gotten softer with wear, and hasn’t suffered from excessive pilling at all. This was my first piece from 360 Sweater and I wouldn’t hesitate to get more. I was happy to find this brand as I always find trying out new contemporary brands a bit of a crapshoot in terms of quality.

Best overall (price be damned): Chanel, Brunello Cucinelli.

It’s painful for me to write this because both Chanel and Cucinelli can easily get into the “crazy” price range. But these two brands are hands down the best experiences I’ve had with cashmere, and if I had an unlimited budget, I’d be going with only here.

Chanel cashmere to me is some of the best ever – it’s usually thick knit, manufactured at their Barrie mills. I feel like you get the best of both worlds with Chanel – really cool stylish designs, paired with the best quality Scottish cashmere that can last you forever if you take care of it. And plus, those buttons!

Brunello Cucinelli makes beautiful and high quality cashmere across the board, but the pieces that I’m always really drawn to are the thinner cashmere items – they are warm, lightweight and perfect for layering, yet don’t pill excessively like more inexpensive pieces. Although Cucinelli is undeniably expensive. I have exactly only one sweater from them and lie in wait for a crazy sale.

J.Crew Featherweight

 

Cashmere-J.Crew_

Worst overall: J.Crew “Featherweight” Cashmere.

I’ve been hearing more and more complaints about J.Crew’s cashmere over the years. I myself haven’t had very disappointing experiences with the brand’s “regular” cashmere items, but unfortunately I can’t say the same for their “featherweight” cashmere items. I own a few of the cardigans so nicely modeled on the lady above – however, all have pilled terribly after a few wears, and two have developed rips. It’s a shame because J.Crew always has such lovely colors that can be hard to find elsewhere, such as this marled yellow. This cardigan developed rips along the collar after just a few months of wear but of course, I had already thrown away the receipt. Alas.

I’d also like to share some of my favorite articles that I’ve come across about selecting quality cashmere:

Not All Cashmere is Created Equal – via the Chicago Tribune, and

 The Sceptical Shopper: Cashmere – via The Economist’s Intelligent Life

Now I’d like to hear about your experiences with cashmere. What have been some of your favorite brands for nice quality cashmere? What were some of your disappointments?

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  • Groupthink7
    November 24, 2014 at 7:31 am

    I agree with you Katherine. I won’t purchase cashmere from Ann Taylor, J Crew or any stores for that matter. The quality is not there. However, I did by two cashmere sweaters from Barneys last year and they are starting to pill. The Burberry scarves from previous years hold up as well as my Brooks Brothers cashmere scarf. Getting off the subject a little, I purchased two Louis Vuitton scarves about 4 years ago made of wool and silk. They are pilling badly and one had a run in it that turned into a hole. I dry cleaned the scarves as instructed, and the scarves look like they have been in a fight. I have scarves that have held up that cost 10 times less than the LV scarves.

    • Katherine
      November 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      So sorry to hear that about the LV scarves! I have one, the original leopard Sprouse issue and it is fine, but will stay away from others.

  • Anonymous
    November 24, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience, I’ve been searching for a “good” quality cashmere as well as a decent sweater that doesn’t pill.
    Carolyn | Blog

  • Maria
    November 24, 2014 at 8:29 am

    I’m with you 100% on J Crew cashmere (heck – even the featherweight t-shirts), – the colors are outstanding, but they develop rips, piling and holes just by looking at them. A shame. Funny thing is that I have a J Crew ribbed cashmere crewneck from the early 90’s that is still in perfect condition after more than 20 years. Obviously the quality declined.

    I think cashmere quality of ALL brands has declined, honestly, unless it’s the top names like Cucinelli or Malo and even then. I’m a consignment shopper/thrifter and always on the lookout for old cashmere sweaters. Even names like Banana Republic and Uniqlo have older sweaters that are thick, soft and don’t pill. I found a gorgeous, soft cherry red Uniqlo last year in a thrift shop. It had that thick, lush feel of an older cashmere sweater and was very good quality. I thought “A-ha!” and ordered several new ones online. Not even close….

    • Katherine
      November 24, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Yes one of my favorite cardigans is an older J.Crew as well! I love that one, I wish they still offered a version with this quality cashmere that we could pay more for.

  • Whitney Farris
    November 24, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Pringle of Scotland on the high end. I have some from many years ago. They look and feel new On the low end Uniqlo, especially the button up sweaters. They have nice button details

    • Katherine
      November 24, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      Thank you Whitney! I haven’t seen Pringle around in the US for a while.

      • Philip
        November 25, 2014 at 10:21 am

        They are sometimes available at Barney’s 🙂

  • Anna
    November 24, 2014 at 9:12 am

    I got my first cashmere jumper years ago and it’s held up beautifully. Unfortunately I can’t remember the brand… last year I picked up a few more from various places and they were all gorgeous. Oh how I love that fabric. Then I just wanted to try the cheap end – H&M. It’s actually held up nicely. The main downside: it smells like a wet dog when you wash it.

  • Kisti
    November 24, 2014 at 10:39 am

    i love cashmere, but find it super expensive. Generally, as I’m on a budget, I got for cashmere blends! So far I really like the wool and cashmere blends as they last a long time and they do get softer with time 🙂

    Kisti

    • Katherine
      November 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Hi Kisti, cashmere blends can be very nice and soft. I’d try to find some nice cashmere items on sale!

  • Naraa
    November 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Have ever heard Mongolian cashmere? I read Brunello Cucinelli uses Mongolian cashmere. If you interested you can visit to http://www.gobi.mn or http://www.goyo-cashmere.com have look their unique products.

    • Katherine
      November 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      Thank you! I have been having fun exploring the Goyo site.

  • Poupak
    November 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks Katherine for a wonderful blog. Here is the link for 100% Cashmere at GAP http://www.gap.com/browse/search.do?searchText=Cashmere

    • Katherine
      November 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks so much! I didn’t see these last night for some reason. Good news!

  • S
    November 24, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    What an interesting post! Thanks !

  • Nanase
    November 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    I also fond of cashmere blends. But I don’t know much about cashmere wool. Cashmere and silk is my favorite, it isn’t necessarily cheaper than pure cashmere but it does prevent of lot of piling issues while still being thin/lightweight and is super soft.

    I’ve been seeing all sorts of cashmere blends with everything from bamboo cotton to polyester. Maybe as pure cashmere piles and becomes more fragile people ill begin to seek out blends depending on their needs. Wool could add texture and insulation. I’m not sure what pure cotton would add except to make it cheaper, and cotton blends are what I see the most of.

    I think my best experience with cashmere silk blends is from a Japanese label If Six Was Nine. I’ve had a sweater-actually its could be long enough to be a mini dress- for about 6 years now and its holding up well with regular use.

    Worst cashmere experience was from a British brand All Saints. that company is more know for their leather jackets but I saw a ‘pure’ cashmere sweater on sale when I was a student and took the plunge. It didn’t last the year.

    I think I might check out the gap cashmere hoodie.

  • Stella
    November 25, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Absolutely agree! I have had terrible luck with jcrew cashmere. Holes, pillings, ripping, etc.
    I stopped buying cashmere altogether because in haven’t been able to find any that lasts more than a season. Thanks for a great post.

  • Sarah
    November 25, 2014 at 8:26 am

    All true – as cashmere is now so popular it’s impossible to keep up the quality and keep lowering prices. Even CHANEL quality is deteriorating.. A similar piece here: http://ladysarahinlondon.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/cashmere-stories-from-quality-in-our-wardrobe-series1/ though I think you covered all the main points. Brora is very high quality, as they control all stages of production and keep their own mills., is it not available in the U.S.?

    • Keodi
      January 11, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Yes, Brora just open a store in NYC. They also have a US version of the website, I would recommend ordering from the UK site though.

  • Becky
    November 25, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I don’t even bother with department store cashmere anymore as they charge a small fortune for very thin cashmere sweaters which pill too easily. I find Brora and Eric Bompard to be wonderful cashmere. A bit pricey but if you purchase even just one per year it will be a sound investment as they last and last. And what I like with EB at least is that they offer multiple choices re: ply. The thicker sweaters are so warm…You will never go back to JCrew or Nordstrom or anyone else of that ilk. Just my 2 cents…

    • Keodi
      January 11, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Same here,
      Brora in my experience has been the best quality. Well worth the prices I paid!

  • Joyce
    November 25, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I love cashmere too! The past 4-5 yrs I’ve bought Neiman Marcus’ cashmere sweaters and it is holding up pretty good.

    Another high end brand you may want to check out is Loro Piana. I have a stole that I snagged on a BG sale for $450ish and it is just as good as my Hermes shawls.

  • Michelle
    November 25, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    I am a Chanel cardigan convert! Thank you for sharing this post. You have the pink blue Chanel cardigan from SS’14 that got away for me, you lucky chicca, it’s absolutely lovely! Would be awesome if you can share with me some of your Chanel Sale intel, Thanks Kat!!

  • Kimberly
    November 26, 2014 at 12:07 am

    C by Bloomingdales has a few great styles every season. I’ve found Ralph Lauren black and men’s purple label cashmere to be much better quality than Polo, which pills almost immediately. Uniqlo seems to be the best brand for inexpensive cashmere.

    • Katherine
      November 26, 2014 at 11:36 am

      Ralph Lauren Black Label went WAY up! I love them too and almost put them on my list but did you see the cost of a sweater now? $850!

      • Kimberly
        November 27, 2014 at 11:39 pm

        The Black Label prices are crazy but I sometimes get lucky and find them on sale in a boutique. I also frequently “borrow” my husband’s Purple Label sweaters.

  • Jane
    November 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    I know this is the last place ppl would look for cashmere sweaters but I got mine from Costco! They r 100% cashmere at $59.99 or something and thicker than some from department stores.

    • Katherine
      November 30, 2014 at 10:43 am

      I LOVE Costco so am so glad to hear that they have great cashmere sweaters! I’ll be keeping an eye out! Thank you!

  • reeder
    December 17, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    A few of my Lands End cashmere sweaters have held up nicely. It is a plusher knit than my Uniqlo cashmere sweater. I also look for quality merino at Banana Republic and Uniqlo. BR in-store sales can be very competitive and 100% merino is easy to care for while being more hard wearing than cashmere.

  • Holly
    January 2, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Oats Cashmere! After reading your post I found this brand at a boutique while on vacation. I purchased a super plush, heavy gage open cardigan. I bit the bullet and paid more than I ever have for cashmere ($370) but I was tired of buying “reasonably priced” sweaters that later pilled and fell apart. Only time will tell but so far so good.

    • Katherine
      January 5, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you! Adding this to my list of cashmere to try 🙂

  • riverina
    May 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    I love Eric Bompard! Discovered them in Paris last August, and have since bought my 7th item from them just recently 🙂 I tried an Australian brand, Everyday Cashmere, and it feels like sandpaper against the skin in comparison to my EBs.

    • Katherine
      May 18, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience with Eric Bompard! I can’t wait to go back and shop more at the store in Paris 🙂