Since cashmere has become so popular, famers have increased their number of goats who graze in ways that can be very harmful to the grass and land they feed on. This has become such a problem that 90% of Mongolia is under increasing threat of desertification.
From 2014 to 2016, cashmere's share of Stella McCartney's EP&L impact dropped from 28%, despite making up only 0.1% of their material usage, to 11% and a much higher usage of cashmere. This is due to their discontinuation of using virgin cashmere and shifting to Re.Verso instead.
This type of sourcing feeds from circular fashion, it's a recycled cashmere made from post-factory cashmere waste. It is sorted by type of fiber and by color as well since most Re.Verso yarns are rarely re-dyed!
Wool is a naturally biodegradable fiber, but dyes and finishing chemicals contaminate it. The wool Stella McCartney uses will not pollute the environment when it eventually decomposes.
While virgin cashmere's supply chain would include Mongolia, Italy, and Scotland, Re.Verso cashmere is completely sourced in Italy. While I couldn't find where this sweater is fabricated specifically, 76% of all manufacturing and material suppliers are in Italy; so, there's a big chance the entire supply chain is in one country, just cannot be certain.
A Life Cycle Assessment analysis conducted by Prima Q, a company that looks at project risk, deduced that Re.Verso cashmere produced 97% less CO2 and 99% less SO2 emissions, and used 92% less water compared to virgin cashmere. Moreover, the prices are competitive with traditional raw materials--this is something more companies could be doing, especially in Europe!
While this sweater is dry-clean only, the wool used adds antibacterial properties to the product to allow for less-frequent washing, also leading to a longer life. Another wool drawback is that its supply chain is incredibly global; but then again, wool only accounts for 5% of this product.
All of this alone, makes me want to give this a 2.75 in this category; however, I am knocking the score down to 2 due to the lack of transparency when it comes to labor conditions.
Stella McCartney, the designer, grew up on an organic farm in East Sussex and has been a life-long vegetarian along with her animal rights activist parents. While she and her brand won't shove a message down anyone's throats, sustainability has always been at the core of what she does, and she lets the designs speak for themselves.
This includes looking into new ways to source materials. For example they have a team "supporting new technologies that will enable them to recycle polyester fabrics back into fabrics," as opposed to using recycled water bottles.
"The team believes it's time for the fashion industry to deal with its own waste."
One of their most used wool yarns is Gold-Level Cradle to Cradle Certified, which looks at material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. This is the second-highest level awarded out of five, and Stella McCartney was the first in the fashion industry to achieve this distinction.
The brand also partnered with PETA in the 2018 Biodesign Challenge in which a group of students from Universidad de los Andes created Woccoan, a vegan wool made from hemp and coconut fibers treated with enzymes extracted from oyster mushroom. Other finalists included a team from MICA and FIT who created Kerasynth and Werewool - so look out for those as well! I don’t know if Stella McCartney has plans to try using these wools, but it's great to see they're fostering innovation like this.
Luxury (n.) is defined by Merriam-Webster as "something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely essential" or "an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease."
It does not mean depleting the world of its resources, it does not necessarily mean rare or exuberantly overpriced. Stella McCartney and other brands who choose to create with sustainable materials are not less-than in this regard. While virgin cashmere is still around, recycling the waste is a great way to enhance circularity.
Regenerated cashmere is just as cozy as virgin cashmere, more biodegradable than many synthetic alternatives, and can even make less of a dent on your bank account. Doesn't that provide you pleasure, satisfaction, and ease?