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Don’t Sweat It: Cashmere Is Being Transformed Into High-End Activewear

A new generation of cashmere clothing is engineered for performance.

Models wearing pieces from Active Cashmere's collection. Active Cashmere

Cashmere has a reputation for being high value but also high maintenance, luxurious but difficult. This is why it’s commonly found in classic garments for restrained occasions rather than sweatpants and sports gear. But, that’s changing thanks to advancing technology and evolving attitudes.

At the heart of this shift are Roy and Danny Hakimian, cashmere industry insiders whose family has been supplying Scottish and Italian mills for decades and sit on the Cashmere and Camel Hair Council with the likes of Pier Luigi Loro Piana and Brunello Cucinelli. To complement this deep knowledge of the cashmere industry, the brothers have been working with craftsmen and chemists for the past decade to make the fiber more versatile and practical while retaining its superlative softness. After several years as a technology brand, working with retailers such as Barneys, the Hakimians are offering their own products under the Active Cashmere banner.

It seems incredible: Luxury-grade cashmere that’s water-repellant and machine-washable. It can even be ironed. “People assume it’s a blend of sorts,” Roy Hakimian says, “but it’s pure cashmere.” Developed in partnership with legendary Scottish mill Todd & Duncan, their process involves treating the yarn before it’s knitted as well as applying a unique finish to the final garment. It’s a departure from traditional luxury knitwear in style and use, but retains the emphasis on quality. “This isn’t about deviating from the old cashmere so much as extending and expanding its capabilities,” John Totolis, a consultant to the brand, adds.

A model wears Active Cashmere's athletic attire, including its signature cashmere hoodie.

Active Cashmere’s hoodie ($625) and shorts ($425) are luxurious companions for lounging or working out.  Active Cashmere

Active Cashmere’s sumptuous hoodie is a testament to this philosophy. “We stripped down the basic hoodie,” Hakimian explains, “and asked how we could build an elegant design. Changing the bottom band from ribbed to tubular changes the whole look, and a tubular hood brings out the luxury feel.” It’s airy and yet substantial to wear, flattering without being restrictive.

“There’s no reason why cashmere has to be traditionally fitting,” Hakimian notes, explaining that they’ve taken combined the quality materials of the grand old luxury vendors with the slimmer, sportier shapes of contemporary casualwear. It’s precisely engineered, utterly easy to wear and—most refreshingly—easy to maintain.

Another brand taking cashmere to athletic new places is Dhu Performance Cashmere. Drawing inspiration from the cashmere garments worn by early British polar explorers and alpinists, its key offerings are a high-performance pure cashmere mid-layer and a cashmere-silk-wool base layer that weighs just six ounces. It’s a first-class upgrade to the classic merino sportswear that’s won over outdoors enthusiasts for its natural moisture regulation and insulating properties.

Dhu Performance Cashmere's base layer in a cashmere-wool-silk blend (£179) and Loro Piana's cashmere-and-calfskin jumprope ($675).

Dhu Performance Cashmere’s base layer in a cashmere-wool-silk blend (£179) and Loro Piana’s cashmere-and-calfskin jump rope ($675).  Dhu Performance Cashmere, Loro Piana

Textile powerhouse Loro Piana, meanwhile, is offering not just sportswear but plush cashmere equipment, including a yoga and meditation mat in pure cashmere along with yoga socks and even a leather-and-cashmere jump rope, making a daily practice that bit more appealing.

As the uses for cashmere grow, so does the significance of its environmental impact. For this reason, an equally important innovation is Patagonia’s recycled cashmere hoodies and crewnecks, one of several recent initiatives to shift its whole range towards recycled fibers. The brand collects scraps from its own deadstock and from European factories—remnants that otherwise would never make it into a garment—then sorts them by color and blends the result with 5 percent virgin wool in a process that brings scrap material back from the dead.

One thing all these brands agree on is the value of cashmere, both in the sense that it’s a luxury product with superb performance and that it’s precious and enduring. As John Totolis puts it, “Cashmere is one of those really misunderstood products: it takes care and expense to do it properly.” But if you do, he says, “the quality is unbeatable and the product will last.”

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