Sweater weather is upon us once more. Cozy connoisseurs know that a cashmere sweater is the ultimate choice when it comes to soft, warm comfort, but what they may not know is where that cashmere comes from or how it’s made. This lack of traceability is one of the biggest faults of the fashion industry today, and is one of the reasons why it can be so difficult to verify sustainability claims. Luckily, So Good To Wear is here to change that. Offering exquisitely crafted, seasonless cashmere essentials, the brand is well on its way to becoming what it likes to call a “whole chain organization.” With their own new and unique breed of cashmere goats on the way, So Good To Wear is bringing sustainability, ethics and craftsmanship back to cashmere’s roots in Nepal.
Tell us a little bit about So Good To Wear—how was the brand started and what is the philosophy behind it?
So Good To Wear founders, Fons and Jacqui Burger, travelled through Nepal after the earthquake in 2015. The country’s beauty stunned them. However, the economic and social damage was also evident. The natural disaster hit the country hard.
During one of their hikes, they discovered something special: raw cashmere, just hanging from the trees, left there by local goats looking to get rid of their winter coats when spring came. They realized that this could be an opportunity for this beautiful country to get some real economic perspective.
Cashmere has been used for the manufacturing of garments in Mongolia, Nepal and Kashmir for thousands of years. It was always a slow and delicate process. However, due to the fast fashion industry, the production process slowly disappeared from Nepal.
Fons and Jacqui decided to kick-start the production of quality cashmere in Nepal again and bring it back to its origins. They involved local communities and farmers in their plans and a real cooperation consisting of entrepreneurs, farmers, spinners and weavers in Nepal and designers, activists, entrepreneurs and fashion retailers in the Netherlands, was born. So Good To Wear became a reality.
What makes So Good To Wear’s cashmere unique? How does this contribute to the sustainability and ethics of the brand?
We offer guilt-free cashmere with a conscience. We do not harm animals in our production process and we make certain that everyone in the production chain is working under good conditions. We build long-term relationships with all our suppliers and carefully select the best factories to outsource the processes that we don’t own yet. Right now, we use yarn that is certified by the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) from an eco-certified factory in China. We are also in the process of breeding our own herd of cashmere goats together with local communities in Nepal. At the beginning of our brand journey, we imported six goats from Australia to crossbreed with Nepalese goats better suited for the local climate. The new breed will be able to deliver the qualitative cashmere that is needed for production, while still being able to withstand the wet and cold conditions in the remote areas of Nepal.
Our business started with our drive to create financial prosperity for the local community of Nepal in a sustainable way. Therefore, we are a cooperation; this means the company is owned by all employees! Directly and indirectly, more than 120 people are involved in So Good To Wear and have fair trade jobs. Besides our central farm, we will be starting satellite (franchise) farms. This way, locals will have a new, independent way of living available to them.
What are the main challenges that exist in the cashmere industry today? How is So Good To Wear solving these issues?
More and more people want the ultimate luxury of a cashmere garment, but without paying the true cost. The race to the bottom has reached the cashmere industry. If a consumer sees a cashmere sweater for €100, and then a similar one for €500, it might look like an easy decision for the casual observer. But the reality is that somebody, somewhere, is always paying that extra cost. If it isn’t you, then it is most likely someone within the supply chain who is much less able to afford it than you are, and they won’t be paying it voluntarily.
We try to reverse this vicious cycle by making sure money spent on our products goes to those who need it most, to make sure they are not the ones actually paying the price of affordability but rather earning a fair wage for their work and building themselves a better future.
What are some of the big goals for So Good To Wear’s future?
We want to expand the number of countries where we are sold and make conscious cashmere available to all. Ultimately, we want to make it the norm. Other companies will need to follow our lead because consumers will not want to buy unethical cashmere anymore. This increased demand will provide fair living wages and an education for people living in areas where their options are limited.
We also want to complete our “whole chain” strategy, where we can monitor what is happening from goat to shop. Wool from our own goats, our own spinnery, our own natural dyeing atelier, our own production and our own CO2-neutral transport. All of this while also being fair trade, sustainable and animal-friendly!
This month we are focused on a theme of celebration. What is So Good To Wear celebrating this holiday season?
We are celebrating the second birthday of our first crossbred Amalthea goats this year. Our goats are named after the Nepalese god of goats, and if all goes according to plan, they will signal the start of a new breed that will bring greater prosperity, hope and prospects to rural areas in Nepal.
Last but not least, what is your view on cooperating with other stakeholders, like Fairbee, to generate positive impact?
We are pioneers trying to change the cashmere industry. We love to work together with change-makers: entrepreneurs, farmers, spinners, weavers, designers, activists and fashion retailers all over the world who want to make a difference, who see opportunities and who strive together for a better world.
This is a new age in fashion where, with every single purchase we make, we need to stand back and consider exactly what it is we are buying and how it might impact our planet. It’s important to work together with platforms like Fairbee to show fashion lovers that there are brands making a difference by not following the herd and launching seasonal collections, and to show them that it is easy to buy better, timeless pieces.