If there’s one thing that the 1984 Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas will teach you, it’s that wearing a bright, soft to-the-touch jumper will build an enigmatic vibe around you without having to make much effort. Whether you’re in the American Southwest like the film’s heroine Nastassja Kinski, or contemplating post-lockdown outfits, finding the right cashmere is something that’s really worth taking the time to get right.
Today’s cashmere has come a long way from Kinksi’s sweater: Brands like Ganni use recycled cashmere fibres to create their oddball knits, and others use contemporary art as a canvas, like my personal favourite Claudia Skoda, who was an icon of the avant-garde Berlin art scene in the 1970s and fuses radical art into her cashmere designs. And on the British High Street, brands like Marks and Spencer and Arket offer beautiful cashmere that won’t break the bank.
A helpful tip for keeping your cashmere in tip-top condition: “If you have to wash it yourself, use a handwash cycle,” says my dry cleaner at Blackheath Dry Cleaners. “And even with the cheaper jumpers, treat it like silk and always store in bags as moths will ruin the fibres.”
So whatever your budget may be, we’ve polled 12 stylish women and men to help you find the best cashmere according to your needs, from stylists to authors and fashion editors. Peruse their recommendations here, from sustainable Danish cashmere at Ganni, to beloved British High Street brand Marks and Spencer.
Best Overall Cashmere Jumpers
They may be your grandma’s favourite, but they’re your chicest friend’s, too ― Marks and Spencer’s pure cashmere textured jumper was chosen by six of our experts for its winning mix of value, at no sacrifice to quality. “Cashmere jumpers were always up there as one of the most decadent essentials, and lockdown has done nothing to change my mind,” says content editor Alice Cuffe. “However, given my tendency to wear them to death, I have always had a true soft spot for Marks and Spencer, their 100 percent cashmere knits are unfailingly soft but affordable enough to allow me to be a bit more playful with colour options.” Berlin-based creative editor Victoria Gisborne-Land chooses Marks and Spencer jumpers for their comfort level — “It’s great and cheap, I have a lot of their stuff” — while Alice uses the accessible price point to experiment with the household brand’s menswear: “I must admit, I’m more often found in the same oversized men’s V-neck cashmere jumper I picked up in M&S years ago, which holds its shape and texture perfectly.”
Five of our experts mentioned Uniqlo, for the brand’s comfort-over-everything approach to cashmere ― including The Water Cure novelist Sophie McIntosh and Antony Gormley Studio coordinator Elena Davidson. Both love their 100 percent cashmere relaxed-fit crewneck jumper, with Elena rating it for price. “Uniqlo might not be particularly glamorous, but they do what they do well and I think it’s the best under £100 option for cashmere out there,” she says. “I still regularly wear a dusty-pink round-neck jumper I bought six years ago that I pair with my Acne scarf for lockdown walks, or with jeans to work ― it’s supersoft and long-lasting.” Several of our experts said Uniqlo is a good entry level to cashmere, which is why they’re the favorite of Sophie McIntosh: “[Uniqlo] were actually my first experience of cashmere, which I was slightly intimidated by! I have been pretty much living in one of their soft grey polo necks.”
COS came highly recommended for the durability of their silky cashmere knits. “My favorite cashmere is from COS, I bought it in 2014 and it still looks new,” says Inan Isik, founder of the namesake sustainable plus-size fashion brand. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, where a typical spring day is 12 degrees Celsius, Inan rates COS cashmere as “very convenient for Copenhagen weather.” It’s also come in handy in the launch of her own label ― “My favourite COS jumper is a crewneck, long-sleeve, dark navy jumper with a tight fit,” which has been perfect for running her rapidly growing business from home. “I wear it under a blazer with a pair of jeans or a wool tailored pant and it looks good.” Over the last six months, COS has branched out into recycled cashmere, coming in three styles, the oversized, a cropped jumper, and a jumper dress, with more lines being added in autumn 2021, including loungewear separates, in case you want to make a luxurious affair of sweatsuits.
Best (More Expensive) Cashmere Jumpers
The White Company’s cashmere rib-detail crewneck jumper is one of the brand’s best sellers for a reason, with both Victoria and Berlin–based curator Carlota Ibañez Silvestre rating it highly for its round-neck style. Carlota calls it her “favourite everyday cashmere. It’s fitted, so when I’m at the gallery I can wear it for private views or meetings and it looks as smart as any top,” she says.
Joseph’s cashmere jumpers were a firm winner for a simple crewneck style that’s more Chris Evans than Ned Flanders. “I love the plain old cashmere men’s crewnecks from Joseph,” says Emma Davidson, fashion features editor at Dazed and Confused magazine. “I found my first one in a secondhand shop on Brick Lane when I moved to London a decade ago and I still wear it to death.” Joseph’s pure cashmere sweater has been in their collection since 2008, but was reworked for autumn 2020 with an update that includes knit ribbing on the cuffs and hem.
Marni creative director Francesco Risso’s substance-over-style approach to cashmere has not gone unnoticed by stylist Lewis Munro. Lewis uses the brand in both his editorial styling work and for his own enjoyment. “Some of the styles are also available for men,” he says, “which means I don’t have to miss out on staying cosy during lockdown.”
As part of their “responsible” circular economy pledge, Ganni have launched sustainable cashmere that’s made from 50 percent recycled cashmere fibres in Italy. “I love that Ganni does recycled cashmere,” says Victoria. “Ganni clothes tend to make me smile, which is a good attribute for anything one chooses to wear, I guess.” In their “responsible” line, which includes dresses and bottoms, Ganni combines a wool and cashmere mix, all upcycled, which is a win for Victoria: “I have a few things that are using recycled cashmere, which I think is a good direction to be going.” Their jewel-embellished pullover with snap buttons is made entirely from recycled fibres, which cuts by half the CO2 emissions usually used to make virgin wool looms.
Tefkros Sophocleous Christou loves that Barrie cashmere has been made in Scotland using craft techniques handed down from generation to generation since 1903. “They are definitely an investment piece but it’s a luxury item that feels very down to earth, as oxymoronic as that may sound.” Head of experience at luxury fine jewelers Hemmerle, Tefkros feels that its “ethical perspective of recycling yarn also feels especially relevant to our times.” Whilst this brand is incredibly expensive, Tefkros thinks it’s worth it. He also loves that a lot of its pieces are gender neutral, rating in particular their cashmere round-neck pullover, which, paired with low-key separates, he calls a “dream outfit.”
“Knitwear designer Claudia Skoda is an icon of Berlin’s 1970s and 1980s art scene,” says GQ Germany style writer Hans Bussart. Writing about art and style, the writer and newsletter editor of Berlin dispatch EX LIBRIS commends Claudia’s mix of radical Berlin moods with West German glamour. “Having worked with the likes of artist Martin Kippenberger for her shows, she opened her first store in New York’s Soho, following advice from David Bowie. The best thing is that she’s still around, and I think her tie-dye style Marble and Achat sweaters are pretty on point.” Skoda’s new collection (not yet online) is made from a 80 percent cashmere, 20 percent mohair mix, but her tie-dye cashmere-and-cotton mix hoodies available online are also cosy.
“I am currently coveting the beautiful knitwear of Genevieve Sweeney.” says Sophie. “They are pieces made to be worn and treasured forever, and I really admire her commitment to slow, sustainable fashion, with an emphasis on supporting traditional British industries and manufacturing.”
Best Cashmere Turtlenecks and Roll Necks
After she borrowed a British friend’s Boden cashmere jumper, Carlota was hooked on their cool knits. “They do a black roll-neck jumper that has a very The Row vibe,” she says. “I wear a lot of dark colours and paired with a black slip they look much more expensive than they are.” Another plus for Boden’s cashmere is that it’s machine washable and is entirely sourced from Mongolia, a region known for its long and fine cashmere-strand quality.
“There’s something at Arket to suit everyone’s tastes, and their cashmere range is no exception,” says writer Caroline Beirne. Passionate about sustainable fashion, Arket’s polo-collar jumper is made from 72 percent recycled cashmere and 28 percent responsible wool. “It is sustainable, on trend, luxury, and wearable all at the same time. Perfect to throw over loungewear around the house or to top off a ‘walk in the park’ outfit.”
The director of the International Library of Fashion Research, Elise By Olsen has an eye for form and silhouette over trends, and likes Salie66 for its focus on “high-quality fabrics, classic silhouettes and subtle details.” Salie66’s collections are all made by hand by craftsmen in family-run mills in the north of Italy. “I’m excited about the fact that this is a brand with strong focus on timelessness and functionality, yet elegantly executed and presented,” she says. Working throughout the pandemic on projects for the library as well as releasing the latest edition of Wallet magazine, which she publishes, Elise has swaddled herself in “their luscious, soft cashmere sweaters and turtlenecks, both in grey and black, which has kept me warm — and stylish — through the cold temperatures in Oslo”.
1990s Acne was a big hit, with four experts endorsing its instantly recognisable cashmere knits, including Carlota, Hans, and curator, designer and scenographer Matylda Krzykowski. “I have this old Acne one with a half turtleneck in a light-chocolate colour that is simply something else,” says the curator, known to her friends and colleagues for dressing in monochrome colours. “I wish I had the bottoms so I could dress in a whole outfit: dressed in milk chocolate.” Acne’s jumpers scored high for Matylda for their mix of “straight lines, timeless appearance, and attempt at modern uniforming which speaks to me.” Luckily, luxury consignment site The Real Real has lots of old Acne around the £80-150 mark and Acne Studios also produce a steady stream of new, ’90s-style cashmere’.’’ Hans likes its unisex sweater: “It’s made 100 percent from the good stuff.”
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