To Blog or Not to Blog...
Some questions will forever be asked. Some people will forever ask questions. Some people, however, will desperately seek an answer but are unwilling to ask the question. This poses a serious problem in all walks of life. An unwillingness to ask questions and find answers will ultimately inhibit clear and informed decision making. More specifically with regard to clothing and apparel, it can lead to costly mistakes.
You should never be afraid to ask a question for fear of looking stupid. It would be ridiculous to assume that a persons intelligence is based on what they know. People often confuse education and intelligence in this respect. Education is learning. Reading a book will improve your education. Intelligence is thinking. Being able to use your education productively, to create or achieve something will show your intelligence. Therefore, simply knowing something is a matter of education, not intelligence, and nobody knows anything until they are taught it. As a perfect example, I have a friend who up until a few months ago had no clue as to when the Roman Empire slotted into the timeline of history. This woman is one of brightest sparks that I know. She is incredibly well read, a problem solving genius and possesses the sharpest (and dryest) wit. The only reason she did not know the dates of the Roman Empire was simply because the topic had never come up in her life, be it through conversation or reading. Therefore, how could she possibly be expected to know what it meant. The only reason that I know the answer, is because I did a three year degree in the subject which just about hammered it home. It was taught to me and therefore I knew about it. I stress again that knowing answers has NOTHING to do with intelligence. It is simply about whether or not you have learnt something.
In fact I imagine that some of the people reading this are, as we speak, bringing up a new browser, typing "When was the Roman Empire" and are now in the process of reading what I imagine to be very long winded and varied answers to that question. The reason you now know the answer is because I brought the question into your life and you taught yourself the answer. To those that you already knew the answer, you must remember that you simply learned about it earlier in your life and whilst you were learning about the Romans, the other people were learning a different topic that maybe you don't know about. Education is a never ending process. I hope I am making this point clear. Intelligence has nothing to do with education. Education is for everyone. Asking questions is the key to education. Therefore, there is absolutely no shame in asking questions.
Anyway, I digress, lets get this back to clothes. Hands down, week in week out, the one question I am most frequently asked is
"What is Cashmere??"
Obviously, I work in clothes and therefor the answer is clear to me. But who else would know??
I would imaging about 60% of you, having been asked the question, would actually realise that you are not entirely sure. I also imagine that a few of the other 40% of you are sitting there saying “What kind of idiot doesn't know that answer?”. To the 60% I say fear not, a good proportion of those people will have learnt the answer from a ridiculous high street advert that suggested cashmere was from a sheep. It is not.
Cutting a long story very, very short, Cashmere is the winter fleece combed from a goat. There, now everyone knows the answer.
This, however, is only a fraction of the story, and here finally, we are coming to nuts and bolts of what this series of blogs will be about. Simply knowing the origin of cashmere does not inform you of what cashmere to buy, or give you any confidence in spotting quality cashmere. Whilst the people asking me were on the right track, they were not asking enough. They were only skimming the surface of what they actually needed to know.
A more pertinent question would be
What is good Cashmere??
I have only ever been asked this once by a woman who had a real interest, and also enough time to spare for me to talk her ear off. About an hour later she left the shop with a thorough grounding on the topic. She knew how to spot good cashmere. She knew how to test cashmere, she knew the origins of the best cashmere, she understood why some cashmere jumpers can be upwards of £500 and why she would expect to be replacing cheap cashmere frequently. She understood exactly why not all cashmere is equal.
Did I give her a headache? Most probably. When that lady makes her next cashmere purchase, will she be getting exactly what she is looking for? Most definitely. I can also guarantee that should the topic of cashmere ever come up over a coffee with her friends, she will be able to stun them an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject.
That then, will be the purpose of this series of blogs. It is to hopefully answer the questions you did not even realise you had, or were too apprehensive to ask. You too, can dazzle your friends with an uncanny knowledge of clothes and style. More importantly, you too will be able to invest your money into quality items that you will spot a mile off, instead of expensive tat.
It's a useful skill to have, and one that comes in handy for everyone, me included. One occasion stands out for me in particular. A few months ago, an unforgettable chap came into the shop boasting “ a deal I could not refuse”. He told me that he had two of the finest quality sheepskins for me and promptly pulled two coats from a bag and laid them out infront of me. He wanted £400 each for them. Now, doing what I do, I can spot a fake with relative ease. I work with fabrics and materials on a daily basis, and the development of the Douglas Shearling
brought me into contact with hundreds of examples of the real thing.
One of these coats was a no-brainer. I mean, my suspicions were first aroused by the fact that it had been dyed in the style of a neon pink zebra. I must confess, I did not even realise that zebras came in that colourway. My suspicions were then confirmed when I touched it and felt what I can only describe as “polyester roadkill”. I imagine a good vet would have proclaimed that coat to have been constructed from genuine Biro pen lids at best.
The second coat, on the other hand, posed more of a problem. From a distance it could have passed for the real thing. In addition, it had hanging tag proudly declaring that it was “genuine sheepskin”. On closer inspection, however, the coat gave itself away. The wool was coarse and too uniform. The weight was all wrong and it simply did not hang properly. A thorough search of the inside seams revealed a minuscule tag tucked inside the upper arm, in a position that required me to turn the arm inside out to read. It revealed that the coat was 100% synthetic. It was a fake with a highly misleading hanging tag. I would value each coat at about £35.00 on a good day. He was asking £400.00 each. I briskly took him through the problems with each coat and politely asked him to leave. I have never seen a person reverse out of my shop quite so quickly.
It got me thinking though. How many people would have been taken in by the better of the two coats?? As I said, I’ve been dealing and working with the genuine article for a long time. It is part of my job. Most people though would need to see the label for evidence and many would not have found it inside that arm. They would have been forced to trust solely in the “genuine sheepskin” hanging tag which was simply a lie.
£400.00 is a lot of money for what is essentially recycled ice cream tubs.
Anyway, I will be starting the first article in the next few days and as you may have guessed it will be on the subject of Cashmere, charting everything from a fabulously wind swept goat sitting on a hill in -30°C Mongolia to that sweater hanging in your wardrobe that disintegrates every time you wear it.
I'll see you soon...
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