How Are We Ethical?
The Ethical Cashmere Ambition
Increasing production of mass-farmed cashmere is placing pressure on the sustainability of traditional cashmere production. The Himalayan cashmere economy that connects its communities, still exists in the face of impersonal and industrialised fashion. Meanwhile, conversion of grasslands in East Asia for mass cashmere ranching is increasing the risk of desertification.
But we believe that people prefer to choose affordable cashmere products that strive to be respectful to people, animals, and the mountain communities. So we have established this online store to bring you the original Himalayan cashmere.
Join us as we endeavour to sustain the values of traditional cashmere production, and improve it further into the new century. So that we would not lose the wise ways of doing business that would serve us better in the years to come.
As part of this commitment, our ambition is to double the value of cashmere weaving work, to create more free time and a better quality of life for our weavers. None of the shop profits currently go to us; this ambition is our first priority. We also hope to find ways for our Nepal partner to participate more in the store to directly learn online retail (although data access is a major obstacle and probably why ethical online brands haven't done it yet).
~The Original Himalayan Cashmere~
Free range, ethically harvested cashmere
When we say our cashmere is ethically harvested, we don't mean 'when measured against technical definitions of how many goats per acre pasture', or how much time outdoors qualifies as 'free range'.
We mean it in the intuitive expectation of ordinary people, when we hear these terms.
Nomad tribes of the Himalayan highlands keep flocks of sheep and cashmere goats, herding them along nomadic routes to summer high pastures, and back again to winter shelters. They travel thousands of miles on foot every year, across terrain which is the natural habitat of the goats, aiming for the best summer pastures in the highest altitudes.
This is why Himalayan cashmere is the finest. They are simply pastured at the highest altitudes, and therefore must be the purest alpine breeds.
As they pass through mountain villages in springtime, the cashmere hairs moult naturally. These are hand combed by the herders and sold to yarn makers along the way. (If you want more, then you'll have to catch up to them high in the mountains to harvest the rest of the moult - a very difficult expedition for those who are not mountain guides!)
So, you can see that we don't mean 'ethical' as a matter of degree, comparing it to better or worse regulations governing mass-pastured goats. It is at a completely different level of authenticity.
By buying an Ethical Cashmere product you would be supporting traditional Himalayan herders instead of mass farmed cashmere.
Fairly traded cashmere, freely contracted
The traditional cashmere business is one that emphasises connectedness between different traders and communities in the Himalayas. There is no single supply chain; rather, it is about nurturing relationships between communities of retailers and weavers, yarn-makers and nomad herders.
Each are independent, but interconnected. The independence of their own communities, allows the ability to negotiate contracts to suit their respective ways of life, while their interdependence gives resilience in uncertain times.
Our local partner is present in the region, and trades directly with local wholesalers and weavers. We have relationships with multiple weaving communities in Nepal and Kashmir, who weave on fairly traded wages either on a contract or a per piece basis, to their preference. Weavers negotiate contracts independently, allowing maximum flexibility to customise the terms of work.
We maintain familial, consultative relationships with many of our longer-term weavers. Design ideas are often developed collaboratively. But what this also means is that we support the most vulnerable of us during difficult times.
By buying an Ethical Cashmere product you would be helping a coalition of small local enterprises maintain our existing community-based cashmere economy.
Empowers women & community artisans
Women are the prime weavers of cashmere in the region. While always a community activity, cashmere production often involves female work, whether in its weaving, finishing, or dye work. As a traditional cashmere artisan, women can produce a high value item without being forced to leave their communities to work in city factories.
By buying an Ethical Cashmere product you are actively helping to bring financial independence to the weaver, raising the standard of living for the rural community, and contributing to the empowerment of women within their own societies.
Affirms the Himalayan way of life
The original Himalayan cashmere is produced by different communities with very different ways of life. Weavers and yarn makers work close to home, in their villages, around existing family and community life. Herders are completely nomadic, preferring to sleep outdoors in tents, constructing their earthen stoves anew each time they pause to pasture. Retailers live the bustle of town life interacting with tourists and visitors, or travel between communities to renew relationships.
No part is forced to change their preferred way of life, to make the supply chain more 'efficient'.
Nomads are not forced to settle in place; they make their own decisions on pasturing so that the mountain is never overgrazed.
Weavers are not forced to clock in at a factory to regular working hours; they manage their own time and weave in their spare time, so the village culture stays intact.
Retailers are just another part of the ecosystem and are not interested in monopolies, because otherwise their sister communities will lose their independence, and the Himalayan way of life will be gone.
By buying an Ethical Cashmere product you would be supporting cashmere-weaving employment that protects the autonomy of Himalayan communities to manage their family and lifestyle choices.