Discovering Mongolia

Harsh Land, Softest Fibers

Jan 01, 2017 by Irene Vermeulen

Mongolia is a land of extremes, as Craftscurator has recently experienced herself. It can be intense cold in winter, but thankfully there are plenty fibers available to keep you warm. The professional textile industry is well equipped to turn the raw cashmere goat hair, yak down and camel hair into the most precious woven and knitted textiles.

Animal Fibers
Mongolia is a land of high plateaus and dry deserts, and a cold and harsh climate. It is the home of millions of animals, herded by nomadic Mongolians. Goats, sheep, yaks and camels provide precious fibers, such as wool and cashmere. Nearly half of Mongolia's households depend on livestock herding. They sell their fibers to yarn processing companies through regional auctions. Most of the material is used for knitted garments, but now also home textiles are being made of fine cashmere, yak wool and felted wool.

Cashmere
Cashmere is one of the softest, warmest and longest-lasting natural fibers on the market. It is said to be eight times warmer and eight times softer than sheep wool. When Spring comes, the Hircus goats are skilfully and carefully hand combed by nomadic herders. They harvest the wonderful and unbelievably soft cashmere undercoat, which forms the goats' winter insulation. The high Mongolian Plateau knows one of the coldest winter season in the world and any animal that lives there is a marvel of adaptation. These goats shed this insulation layer to be able to deal with the harsh winter.

Natural Colour Shades
From 17 different provinces in Mongolia, cashmere fibers were gathered and compared by researchers in a joint project. A remarkable variety in quality, texture and colour was found in the samples. 'From pristine white via beige to deep dark brown, we even found cashmere with a bluish shade', says Naratogtokh Davaajav of the Mongolian Textile Institute. 'Now, we are encouraging our design students and the industry to make use of these natural colour shades.'

Sustainable Design
Craftscurator has recently started a new project in Mongolia, and is now working with 11 textile companies in the wool and cashmere industry to develop new product ranges. These products will not just stand out in the market, the exporters are also working on making these products more sustainable. Some companies are improving conditions for herders or their workers, others are experimenting with natural dyes, or are re-using left-over material. The results of this project 'Sustainable Design', initiated by CBI in collaboration with the University of Science and Technology of Ulaan Bataar, the Mongolian Textile Institute and the Mongolian Wool and Cashmere Association, will be launched late 2017.

Fragments of this article by Irene Vermeulen have been published on PantoneView.com

To know more about the Sustainable Design project in Mongolia, keep an eye on the Craftscurator newsletter (subscribe here) or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Combing the goat
to obtain the softest fibers
Herd of goats
in Mongolia
Hircus goats in Mongolia
Growing precious fibers
Nomadic herder
in the Mongolian countryside
Softest fabrics by Oyuna
Made of cashmere
Fine knits and woven fabrics
by Oyuna