I have always loved the feel of cashmere; my mother wore it when I was a young girl and I remember just adoring the softness of her jumpers and cardigans (though I sometimes wondered if she wasn't feeling a bit warm, she was never one to dress for actual temperatures, more for what she believes the seasonal style should be... ) A couple of decades on, I've learned to love wearing it, especially now that I'm a Londoner and its even cooler out there, and it's been years since I last bought a wool jumper or hat, all my new knits are either cashmere or silk and cashmere. Once you've experienced being able to wear nothing under your jumper and feeling warm and soft, not warm and scratchy, there is no returning to the scratchy side, no matter how amazing the quality. Even cashmere socks are better (although they are a bit slippery, so my favourite socks are still cotton)!
One other thing to like about about cashmere is that it loves water. I wash my cashmere with a handwash lotion, preferably the Victoria's Secret handwash or soft Woolite, in lukewarm water, and it comes out plump and rejuvenated, as if it's been to the spa! As long as it is 100% cashmere, no matter how many plies, don't waste your money in dry-cleaning cashmere, the chemicals will only damage the fibres. If you have a washing machine with a delicates or a wool programme, use that, only make sure not to use fabric softener (I know it's counter intuitive but really it doesn't help!) then lay your cashmere softies on a flat surface to dry, whilst you send me a thank you note for this suggestion (just kidding of course).
Good cashmere should not pile, that's a fact. However if your new cashmere knit does, there are a couple of tricks you can use. From the least aggressive to the bazooka technique, here are my favourites:
1) The freezer - Put your sweater in a resealable bag and park it in the freezer overnight before wearing, it will not pile (this needs to be done everytime, before wearing the item, quite unpractical if you ask me, and what's the point of wearing cashmere if it's coming straight out of the freezer? Might as well go out in your bikini...) Please don't ask me how it works, I have no idea, but if anyone has a masters in cashmere sciences please chime in!
2) The adhesive defluffer roll-on - If like me you use your freezer for what it's meant for (a shelf for pre-prepared baby foood, another for movie night ice creams, and ice trays for that well-needed Fridayt G&T) and you already have piles, use a roll-on with adhesive defluffing sheets which you can peel off once full. I usually find this works best on broad fluff areas, less so on the little piling balls...
3) The razor - Ok this is somewhat aggressive but if you approach things with a light hand you should be fine. There are elaborate shaver machines that are sold online to do this but I find that a hand-held razor works just fine. Keep a very light hand, so as to avoid making holes in your cashmere. This is the best and most effective technique, I use it on my cashmere once a year...
So, the question now is where to buy from. I usually relie on four places: Eric Bompard (by far the best source for cashmere ever), N.Peal I discovered in London , Zadig & Voltaire for the rock-&-roll vibe, and Uniqlo for the cheap basics.
Eric Bompard is my go-to brand for all classic jumpers, especially the fitted turtlenecks in 2 plies, I have them in many colours and they don't ever pile. They have the classic colours and then each year a few new hues are launched, obviously I'm a bit addicted... I love the little goat they used a few years ago in their ads, it's adorable and the story tells it all: "Un cachemire Bompard est une chèvre qui a réussi"!
Zadig & Voltaire is a brand I've blogged about before, but I love it so much it gets another mention here, for their edgy and modern take on cashmere wraps and sweaters. I love how some of the jumpers have a message or a picture on the back. I often come to Zadig to find Chritsmas gifts for Hubby Dearest, as he likes their rock-&-roll approach, and of course Monsieur Baby already has quite a little collection of their hooded jumpers. The quality is quite good, though expect some piling as you'll be wearing a Zadig sweater to death...
Zadig & Voltaire
Finally, I depend on Uniqlo, the fantastically practical Japanese brand, for basic cashmere needs. They have a lot of colours which they update each year with the colours of the year: 2009 is all about vibrant 1980s colours, including a fabulous purple I'd love to own. To give you an idea of how affordable this is: women crewnecks go for £79.90, and men's V-necks are £89.90... Unbeatable!