The name cashmere itself exudes luxury. It’s soft and warm—the stuff that chilling by the ski lodge is made of. Still, it’s difficult to determine whether the average retailer selling cashmere sweaters for under $100 is going to stand the test of time or become a pilly mess of balls after just one or two wears.
We’ve all overspent on sweaters we thought would stick with us for the long haul, only to be disappointed when they fail us faster than that one surprisingly long-lasting knit from Uniqlo or H&M. Shouldn’t more expensive mean, better?
Not necessarily. And as such, we were prepared to view Naadam Cashmere with a similar sense of skepticism as any other sweaters. Not because we don’t believe them, but because buying sweaters can be a real gamble.
How does the brand hold up? Let’s take a look.
About the Brand
Nadaam’s founder tells the brand’s story through the lens of an entrepreneur who has hacked the system. But really it’s the story of the new model in consumer goods—online stores, no intermediary, a close relationship with suppliers.
The direct-to-consumer brand focuses on providing eco-friendly Mongolian wool to consumers for a reasonable price. The system usually works with outside traders coming in and buying wool for the lowest possible price and marking up materials. By removing the middleman, Naadam can pay the organic goat herders a fair price, while passing along savings to consumers.
Founder Matt Scanlan got the idea for Naadam after living with Mongolian goat herders for a month. He discovered that most luxury cashmere is handled by dealers that deal with the buyers, passing little profit onto the herders. Still, these brokers charge a pretty penny to designers--hence the high prices you'll see on store shelves.
Three years later, Scanlan returned to the Gobi Desert with $2 million in a plastic bag on a mission to pay the herders the wages they deserved.
What’s the Deal with Ethical v. Unethical Cashmere?
It’s interesting. We think of animal cruelty, as it pertains to things like meat or dairy production, but it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to cashmere.
Cashmere goats, according to the Naadam website, are raised in frigid climates (Mongolia has some severe winters), as such, the goats develop long thick hair to protect themselves from the elements. Shearing the goats, as some producers do, can be very stressful for the goats.
Instead, Naadam’s goat herders do things old school, hand combing the goats to gather the hair used to make your sweater. Fun fact—it takes four goats to make just one sweater—which is why 100% cashmere can be more expensive than your average wool blend sweater.
Okay, So What Do They Have?
Nadaam’s small selection isn’t going to flesh out your entire wardrobe, but that’s okay. Most of the sweaters are just under $200 and come in a few solid colors—so purchasing a couple of these pieces will certainly get you through the rest of the year.
The sustainable sweaters come in a V-neck (a silk-cashmere combo for $125) and a crew neck (100% cashmere for $195)—you can’t go wrong with these guys, though it would be nice to see a few more colors and patterns.
Interestingly, the brand offers cashmere shirts—polos, henleys, and tees—as well as cashmere lounge pants that will put your Costco sweatpants to shame. It's undeniable that Naadam is the go-to site for the cozy guy. Their cotton-cashmere shirts offer a transitional layer that can be worn like the office cardigan—a piece best used to combat cool breezes and overzealous AC units.
About that Pilling
According to the Naadam website, the sweaters are made with long, durable fibers (thanks to the extreme cold) that only pill one time. After you clean the sweater, which you can do with shampoo btw, the pills should come off and never return.
As we’ve mentioned, the cashmere sweaters don’t come in all that many iterations. The other thing we didn’t love was, it was nearly impossible to find much information from people who bought the product. There are tons of articles written about Naadam and how the company is disrupting the cashmere industry, but not much about how the adding a few sweaters to your wardrobe will disrupt your closet.
There’s also the price. While all evidence points to these sweaters lasting long term with proper care, we keep seeing them being compared to Everlane’s line of ethical cashmere sweaters—but their version is $100—close to half of the price of Naadam.