“First off, you have to treat a cashmere sweater with respect,” explains Adam Holdsworth, managing director and owner of London-based heritage cashmere brand N.Peal. And for Holdsworth, that respect runs much deeper than carefully de-pilling your beloved turtleneck with a fine-tooth comb every season (more on that later, though)—it goes all the way back to the source. Mongolia, to be exact.
Under Holdsworth, N.Peal—which has been turning out ultra-fine cashmere sweaters, coats, and accessories since 1936—is working its way towards blending classic style with thoroughly 21st century ethics. So, while the super-soft crew-necks and cardigans that the brand has made its name for over the past 82 years really don’t look all that different to the naked eye, there’s a radical change going on behind the scenes—in addition to opening outposts around the world, like the first New York location that debuted in February, to boot.
“It’s very much the vision to become, ultimately, the global destination for a sustainable, luxury, cashmere,” says Holdsworth. To do that, he says, “you’ve got to get all the way back to the herder.” He explains that as the global cashmere market has exploded (think sweaters turned out by big-box brands for under $100), so too has the number of goats needed to produce the coveted material. And those goats eat—wreaking havoc on the fragile Mongolian grasslands they call home.
“How much the humble goat is really responsible is questionable,” Holdsworth admits, but, he caveats: “what is undoubted is the fact that the environment is being damaged by overproduction of cashmere and overgrazing of cashmere goats.” With that in mind, N. Peal is aiming to become 100 percent sustainable across its supply chain by spring of next year. The process involves everything from educating farmers on environmentally protective herding techniques to making sure goats are being combed instead of sheared like sheep or alpaca (a process that protects the animal’s wellbeing and allows them to produce over multiple harvest seasons). And, of course, sourcing non-toxic dyes to produce those cozy bordeaux and bold cobalt blue sweaters.
And while the brand certainly hopes that its commitment to sustainability will help pull the rest of the cashmere industry in the right direction, it is also focusing on educating those that snap up its ultra-soft pieces on how to make the most of their investment. Or, in Holdsworth’s words, to treat their sweaters with respect.
So, once you’ve bought that super-fine roll neck ($390)—Holdsworth’s must-have piece—be sure to zip it up in N.Peal’s cotton bags to keep it away from moths; take out that cashmere comb every couple of wears; do your research before you wash (it is possible to wash by hand at home, but a dry cleaner is probably your safest bet); and never, ever, put it in the dryer—unless, you’d like your toddler to wear it next season, of course.