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.
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.
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?