Design & Make

Nomadic Cashmere

by Matthew Scanlan November 12, 2014
ReadNomadic Cashmere

Naadam cashmere was founded in response to an industry climate we were personally very unhappy with. On the one hand, we had organizations that used unethical and unhealthy working practices, and on the other, we saw companies that were misusing social impact strategies for selfish marketing purposes. Our goal was to invest in sustainability as a business practice and grow a healthy, transparent supply chain that produced luxury lifestyle clothing. It started about four years ago with a tourism trip to Mongolia that ended with a decision to build a micro-economic development fund to support the nomadic herding populations in a remote Mongolian region known as Bayan Govi. We now travel to Mongolia several times a year to source cashmere directly from the herders we support. We then spin luxury yarns and manufacture cashmere knitwear that is durable but soft and light. Here is the journey of our products.

Mongolian kid playing

A Mongolian child plays in the fields with a horse.

In Mongolia, 1.5 million people live a nomadic existence. Their livelihood is their herd, and they have been practicing and perfecting nomadic animal husbandry for hundreds of years with little change.

Hircus goats

The Hircus goat is the source for the finest Mongolian cashmere.

The Hircus goat produces a very unique cashmere fiber when exposed to the harsh climate of the Mongolian Gobi Desert. We travel to the source, a region called Bayan Govi, where the rare white Hircus goat is prevalent.

Matthew Scanlan & Diederik Rijsemus

Naadam cashmere co-founders Matthew Scanlan and Diederik Rijsemus in Mongolia.

This unique long staple, low-micron fiber comes directly from the nomadic herders. We work with them to mitigate financial and climatic risks by investing in a micro-economic development strategy that looks a lot like charity.

nomadic herders

Scanlan and Rijsemus meeting with nomadic herders in central Mongolia.

The road infrastructure in Mongolia does not extend as far as we travel, and much of our journey – nearly 20 hours by car across the open planes of Mongolia – is off-roading. But it’s worth it: We spend a lot of time with the herding families and learn about their everyday lives, culture, heritage and financial needs.

Mongolian goat herder

A Mongolian herder collects the long fibers from his Hircus goat that will eventually be spun into some of the finest cashmere in the world.

Every spring, the cashmere is combed from the under belly and below the neck of the Hircus goat. We don’t shear the cashmere. One of the reasons the material is so beautiful is because the fibers are so long. We avoid cutting them at all cost, as a longer fiber produces a garment that pills much less.

Cashmere processing machine

In Ulan Bator, a machine processes the cashmere into its purest form.

We then send the raw material to Ulan Baator to be cleaned, washed and de-haired. This process is a lot like refining an alcohol. The more times we put the material through this process, the more we lose – but the purer our final product becomes.

Mongolian sewers

A woman works on a Naadam cashmere garment in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

After spinning, the garments are constructed in small facilities by Mongolians who have an exceptional eye for detail.

Naadam cashmere sweaters

The Naadam cashmere hoodie (left) and crew neck sweater with sweatshirt detailing (right) and fine ribbed scarves.

We finish with a beautiful and soft yet durable cashmere garment that’s ready to wear – and be enjoyed for years to come.

Matthew Scanlan, along with Diederik Rijsemus, are the co-founders of Naadam cashmere. 

Mongolia copy from Naadam Cashmere on Vimeo.

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