Cashmere is adored and loved by fashion designers and luxury fashion houses around the world and for very good reason…cashmere is an extraordinary fibre and their customers love it. It’s incredibly soft, fantastically warm and beautiful to wear. No other fabric screams special, unique and distinctive in the same way. It is for these reasons this amazing fibre continues to be so highly sought after. Exclusive fashion houses can’t get enough and the relentless increase in demand is placing strain on supply. In response, conglomerate fashion houses like LVMH are starting to invest deeper into supply chains.
Research by local Otago farmers David and Robyn Shaw is demonstrating strong international interest in New Zealand’s potential to produce world class cashmere. The Shaws have been quietly working behind the scenes for the past 35 years, evolving what is now considered to be cashmere of equal quality to the best in the world. Their company, New Zealand Cashmere is producing fibre as fine as 12 microns, with hoggets producing 14 micron and does in the 16’s. Their fibre is proving to be longer, whiter and brighter than cashmere sourced from leading producers in Mongolia and China, which is interesting because existing supply chains are facing headwinds and challenges brought about by overstocking, climate change and a resultant decline in quality.
David and Robyn have been quick to see what an amazing opportunity this presents for New Zealand farmers and have recently announced a commercialisation program with highly regarded leisure fashion house Untouched World and yarn manufacturers Woolyarns. These companies were both pivotal in developing the now famous possum merino blends for the luxury wool market. Both companies are excited about showcasing New Zealand cashmere and if history is anything to go by, this cashmere venture has the makings of another truly great New Zealand story.
David and Robyn Shaw are excited about what they see as the renaissance of a dormant New Zealand cashmere industry and as we know in New Zealand, dormant can turn into seismic very quickly and being prepared is the key. David Shaw reports,
“We have seen the goat sector grow and then implode into a long period of stagnation. Three years ago, we were faced with either giving up and losing years of genetic gain or creating a solution. For us the decision was an easy one and it has taken us on an interesting journey. What hasn’t changed is the demand, positioning and value of cashmere. In the prestige and luxury fashion world, it reigns supreme and we want to be part of it.”
With 34 years of experience farming cashmere goats as part of an integrated livestock farming business the Shaws have developed a productive, resilient, low input and complementary farm animal. Their current high quality flock is the evolution of apex breeding programs and the genetic evolution gained from thousands and thousands of goats. The result is one of the best genetic engines for cashmere production in New Zealand and it’s ready to roll.
“After years of breeding and selection the modern cashmere goat has surpassed what we imagined was possible. 30 years ago we started with a few multi-coloured ‘ferals’ and today our goats are not only producing amazing fibre, they are integrated into our intensive beef and sheep finishing operation. They also play a key role in converting weeds without the use of chemicals, and they boost the growth of natural nitrogen fixing white clover. It all just adds to the natural, sustainable, and regenerative New Zealand story. Robyn and I believe this is the direction we need to take to make farming future proof.”
The quality of the Shaw’s cashmere has proven to be exceptional. It is as good as the world’s best and if that doesn’t scream opportunity what does? Their Southern Otago company, New Zealand Cashmere is now offering the opportunity for like-minded farmers to work with them to develop the national flock into a resurgent, premium, export industry. In doing so, they will be rewriting the New Zealand cashmere story.
New Zealand Cashmere can be contacted on +64 27 228 7481 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: J. Wilkes . Troika