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Johnstons of Elgin - an entry from the archives

OUR CASHMERE

September 2019

Johnstons of Elgin is synonymous with the world's finest cashmere. Our rich history and experience spanning three centuries make us experts in our field, and we are proud to work with sustainable, renewable and biodegradable natural fibres.

We were there at the very beginning of the UK's cashmere story, with James Johnston being the first in the country to use the luxury material in 1851. Combed from the underside of cashmere goats, the fine fibres, along with our unparalleled craftsmanship, create beautiful, high-quality products that are suitable for wear all year. The extreme softness guarantees comfort while durability ensures cashmere clothing and blankets can last for more than a lifetime.

James Johnston's very first order for cashmere from 1851 from our archive books James Johnston's very first order for cashmere from 1851 from our archive books.

Our cashmere is sourced from China, Mongolia and Afghanistan. We buy 15 different types of cashmere, each one carefully selected for its colour, thickness and length. Mongolia produces long, fine fibres in a grey or light brown hue; China the finest, whitest cashmere and Afghanistan shorter, browner shades. We work with the natural properties of the cashmere, closest in colour to our finished products, to avoid bleaching the delicate fibres.

Johnstons of Elgin Yarn Cones Johnstons of Elgin Raw Cashmere

Cashmere goats produce a light, downy undercoat due to the severe weather conditions in their natural habitat during winter, with temperatures often dipping below -30°C. These fibres are combed from the underside of the goats when it starts to 'float' naturally in the spring.

Cashmere is the primary source of income for the herders and sustains their unique, nomadic way of life, which has developed over hundreds of years. In Mongolia, we work directly with communities, along with the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, focusing on education and reward programmes to support sustainable practices in cashmere production.

While many companies claim to use only the finest cashmere, for us it is a reality. Less than 10% of the cashmere produced meets our demanding standards, and the Johnstons of Elgin standards are known as the most difficult to meet in the industry.

Checking the quality of cashmere at Johnstons of Elgin

Innovation is as much a part of our history as fibre itself, and cashmere is our specialism. In the late 1850s, Johnstons of Elgin developed its own dehairing machine, replacing the previously hand-performed task of separating coarser cashmere fibres from finer down. Since then, we have continued to challenge convention, using new materials and ground-breaking techniques to deliver the very best products to our customers.

Most recently, innovative technology has allowed us to create our lightest ever woven cashmere. Feather-light and delicate to the touch, this tissue-like material is a seasonal game-changer, making cashmere a summer staple as well as a winter wardrobe essential. Our ultra-fine cashmere knits use the latest Japanese whole-garment technology and specially developed yarns, to avoid pressure points and seams and make them extremely comfortable to wear.

Our experience, meticulous selection process and fine craftsmanship are the reasons our customers have been coming to Johnstons of Elgin for their cashmere for so many years. Our customers know that our cashmere products are an investment - high quality, durable and designed to last. We have worked with this luxury fibre for more than 200 years, affording us a level of expertise that is truly unique.

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