A more sustainable alternative to cashmere has been launched in the UK in the form of yak yarn.
Social enterprise and London based clothing brand Tengri has been sourcing Mongolian yak yarn since 2014 but is now using UK mills to produce a more refined yak yarn fibre.
The company is hoping to supply the cashmere alternative to other labels whilst using the yarn in its own clothing products. Tengri state that the Khangai Noble Yarns Collection would provide the yak yarns with properties similar to luxury wools such as cashmere.
They believe that the UK production will offer manufacturers more sustainable and ethically produced fibres along with a traceable supply chain from start to finish, whilst maintaining the craftsmanship and heritage of UK mills.
One reason for the move to a more sustainable fibre is due to cashmere being under threat from the effects of climate change. This is causing a reduced amount of land available to graze the cashmere goats and other livestock across the Tibetan plateau in Mongolia and Northern India.
Tengri founder Nancy Johnston stated: “The fashion industry is experiencing, first-hand, the detrimental impact that economic and environmental challenges are having on the root source of much of its premium yarns. This can be seen in the supply and quality of the world’s cashmere produce. The current landscape is unsustainable and we must make a change.”
Johnston launched the brand after living in Mongolia with herder families and identifying an opportunity for a collective blend of fashion, ethics, business, environmental activism and individual customer choice.
In light of this, Tengri aims to source hand-combed fibres from indigenous and semi-wild noble yak from the Khangai Mountains Mongolian herders co-operatives.
Furthermore, the company has established a ‘fair share’ business model with the co-operatives involving over 1,500 nomadic herder families in the grasslands of Mongolia to supply Tengri with the yak fibres.
“While supporting the livelihoods of herder families, our collaboration also provides the industry with a unique premium product while regenerating its source, the communities and land that bear these precious fruits.” Said Johnston.
Not only are Tengru supporting local herders, they are also importing all waste fibres from the hand combing process to the UK and are working with textile technologists to reuse the fibres. They are using green technologies, closed-loop systems and waterless and toxic-free dyes made from locally sourced plants to produce more sustainable products.
This may be one small step to creating a more sustainable way of producing luxury fibres but it’s one small step in the right direction.