How to Tell if a Fabric is Cashmere: A Guide
Cashmere, known for its softness, warmth, and luxurious feel, is a highly sought-after fabric. These days you can find decent cashmere pieces in high-street shops, but they can't compare to the sumptuous feeling of vintage or heritage brand cashmere.
This guide shows you some methods to determine if your item is made out of cashmere.
Genuine cashmere is derived from the fine fibers of cashmere goats, making it an exquisite and valuable material. However, it's important to be able to distinguish authentic cashmere from imitations, especially when Vintage or second hand shopping.
1. Check the Label:
It might seem obvious, but the first thing should always be to inspect the garment composition label.
Fabric composition: Look for labels that explicitly mention "100% Cashmere", or a high percentage of cashmere (e.g., 95% cashmere, 5% wool). Legitimate cashmere items should clearly state the fiber content (in many countries this is mandated by law).
Country of Origin: Cashmere is produced in certain regions known for high-quality cashmere, such as Mongolia, Nepal, and parts of China. If the label indicates the fabric originates from these regions, it's more likely to be genuine.
2. Fiber Inspection:
So, how to tell if it's cashmere when your vintage find is missing its composition label?
Step 2 in identifying cashmere is to closely examine the fibers of the fabric. Genuine cashmere fibers are incredibly soft, fine, and typically measure around 14-19 microns in diameter (human hair is around 30). However, this method can be tricky since many cheaper cashmere items are made out of lower grade cashmere wool they can have a rougher feel (still soft but not like grade A cashmere) even when they are 100% cashmere, making them harder to distinguish from wool blends etc.
Softness: Authentic cashmere feels exceptionally soft to the touch. Run your fingers over the fabric, if it feels silky and smooth, it could be cashmere. Cashmere has a tendency to pill no matter the grade of the wool (though higher grades tend to pill less) so don't be discouraged if your vintage find has a couple of bobbles. This is not necessarily a bad sign and they can easily be removed with a cashmere comb.
Fine Texture: Genuine cashmere fibers are long, fine and thin, allowing for a delicate, lightweight fabric. Hold the fabric up to the light; if you can see through it slightly and it appears fine and light, it might very well be cashmere.
YouTube creator Enduring Attire shows the difference between poor and high quality cashmere, and how to check the length of the fibers.
3. Brand Reputation:
While not a foolproof method, brand reputation can provide valuable hints about the authenticity and quality of vintage or second hand cashmere pieces.
Reputable Brands: If your new find comes from a well-known, reputable brand with a history of producing high-quality products you most likely have a genuine cashmere item on your hands. Even if the composition label is missing.
If I find an item I think is cashmere but is missing the fabric composition tag, I usually do a search on Vestiaire Collective, filtering on Material = Cashmere, to see if I can find the exact one, or similar pieces with the composition tag still intact.
4. Cashmere burn Test:
Some call it the last resort, but performing a burn test is a good way to help you determine the fabric content when you need to be sure.
However, be very careful when handling fire and do it in a safe environment away from flammable materials. Remove a small pinch of fibers from your item and roll, or press, them together to make a slightly denser thread. Then, very carefully, hold it over an open flame.
Genuine cashmere is fire resistant, when burnt it will shrink and smell like burnt hair. If any ash produced is should be fine and powdery, similar to that from burnt paper.
Synthetic fibers will burn much quicker, smell like burnt plastic, and could produce black smoke depending on the amount being burnt.
This video, by the Cashmere Zone on Youtube shows you how 100% cashmere can look when burnt.
5. Professional Authentication:
If you're still unsure if it's cashmere, consider seeking professional help.
There are specialized services that can analyze the fiber and confirm whether it is genuine cashmere. Many vintage and second hand shops provide authentication services so you can rest assures that your new treasure has the cashmere content you want.
Telling if a vintage or second hand garment is made out of authentic cashmere involves a combination of tactile assessment, careful observation, and, when necessary, expert assistance. Please leave a comment to let me know if you found this guide helpful, or if you have any additional tips! 😊