The understanding is that cashmere is one of the warmest fibres known to man & it's lightweight. Properly cared for, it lasts forever.
With the advent of fast fashion, cashmere has lost it's luxe status and is now available at every price point. With price reductions, quality also varies. Unfortunately that is often a downward variation.
For southern hemisphere AW 2014, Target Australia has introduced 100% cashmere in it's top line, Limited Editions for both men and women. As a Sydney girl, we finally have a Uniqlo store and I also had the chance to look at their cashmere sweaters.
This blog compares the Target and Uniqlo cashmeres for women.
Let's start with the Target women's range.
Available in camel & in marine blue (a bright navy with a tinge of purple).
Three styles, crew sweater (69), vee sweater (69) & a waterfall cardi (89).
NOTE: The sizing differs enormously between the crew and the vee.
In the following photo I laid an XL crew over an XL vee. Notice the width difference?
This means that online buying may prove tricky.
Similarly, if you want the largest vee size in the crew style, it's impossible to get.
I cant understand why these were sized so differently but I checked quite a few & it's consistent. Scary.
Some style differences to note:
The crew has a wide hem basque. The vee has a very narrow hem basque. Not a material practical difference - more about the look than anything else.
Now let's compare the men's with the women's.
NOTE: The men's (99) is a thicker weight than the women's.
It's a denser knit. I don't know whether it's the gauge or the ply, but the women's are flimsier.
Sure, the men's are bigger pieces, so use more fibre. That & the denser knit make them more expensive. You get what you pay for strikes again.
The men's have a wide basque - like the women's crew. Due to the tighter knit, the men's hem is more bubbled than the women's which falls more vertically.
For me, apart from the thicker weight, the men's look more expensive due to the way the neckline is finished.
The men's has a banded finish - the knit is folded over along the vee. In contrast, the women's (both vee & crew) have one layer of ribbing - it looks flimsier, cheaper.
The men's are available in a purple (pinot) and charcoal (zippered front), as well as the same navy as the women's (marine blue).
Frankly I don't like the quality of the women's - when you wear it fitted, you can see your shirt print underneath. I suppose it depends on how fitted you want to wear it, but if you love loose - grab the men's.
Overall, the women's sweater cost $69 and you get $69 of value. Pretty ordinary.
Let's compare the women's sweater to the cardi.
In short, the cardi is outstanding.
It's generous in its cashmere.
The back is long & covers the bum - unlike alot of waterfalls which try to save costs by keeping the back short.
Call me crazy, but I am pretty sure that it's a slightly heavier knit than the sweaters. I was in store, with limited time, comparing with my eyes closed & I think this is the case.
But apart from the generosity of the cashmere, the thing which makes this look luxe was the finish. There is thick banding all around the edges (except hem) and on the cuffs.
But since the waterfall is the big feature and it's front row centre, you'd want the banding to look great in that area. And it does.
Let's zoom in on the bottom corner of the waterfall...it's a single layer (not banded) but the finish is awful. And that's what takes away from the luxe factor.
Now zoom in on the upper corner of the waterfall - closer to the face...it's icky.
You may argue that a fine knit cant be finished any better. I agree with you BUT, I need to add something. A fine knit can't be finished any better yet still maintaining the same price.
In contrast, the Target cardi has a gorgeous finish with any seams on the inside of the band. Love it.
The price is 89 but the value is way more than that.
THREE MORE POINTS:
1. The women's range is made in Bangladesh - Target has signed the Safety Accord in respect of work done in that country.
2. There is no swatch of cashmere thread attached to the sweaters. So if you need to mend, you'll have to find your own fibre match.
3. The cardi is generally not for petites. Even in the XS, I feel it may swamp you, but there may be cases where it works, depending on the person.
Let's go to Uniqlo.
Bear in mind I havent put a Uniqlo side by side with the Target sweaters. Even so, if I had to compare weight, I'd say the Uniqlo is definitely thicker than the Target women's. I'd say it's similar to the Target men's.
As you probably know, Uniqlo is a Japanese retailer who specialises in selling basics in a gazillion colours. This contrasts with stores like Zara & H&M, who specialise in the latest trends & only use the basics as fillers.
The Uniqlo cashmere I saw (in the Sydney pop up) was all the same grade for both men's and women's.
There was men's & women's in a gazillion colours. But the shades weren't identical between the sexes - they varied. So men's may have a coral pink, the women's was close to a fuschia and a different shade of coral. The men's mint may have been mottled, white the women's was clear. Etc etc.
In the permanent stores, there are vee neck, scoop necks, crew necks, short sleeve, long sleeve etc etc.
The only thing I noticed with respect to quality & the luxe look was on the basque along the neckline.
Both men's and women's are single layers (not banded/folded over like the Target men's).
But the women's has a vertical rib which runs along the band. The men's has the traditional perpendicular rib (like the Target women's crew & vee).
I think the men's looks more expensive, although the women's may be more slimming (it all helps...).
Caveat: One of the major quality indicators for natural fibre knits is pilling - those little balls you get on your sweater from friction. Obviously I havent tested that aspect.
If you want to know the 101 on pilling, read this blog:
Finally a word on maintenance...
1. Keep mothers & critters away. There is no need for napthalene these days - there are dozens of products in the super market for this which smell far better & do the job just as well. Lavender is one of them.
2. Never ever, ever, ever dry clean cashmere. It's strips the fibres of their oils & makes the garment hard over the long term. It will also discolour the pale colours to a grey tinge.
The Uniqlo fabric tag says to dry clean - ignore it.
3. Hand wash in tepid water with either wool wash or shampoo.
Just dunk it in & out of the water a few times & swish it around - its the agitation (friction not required) which loosens the debris from the fibres.
4. Squeeze the excess water out with your hands (do not wring) & roll the sweater in a towel to absorb more moisture.
5. Re-shape the sweater & lay it flat to dry away from sunlight, on another dry towel. Never hang as it will stretch out.
6. If it's on an elevated mesh fabric, there is no need to turn it over. If it's on a sealed surface (table etc), turn it over after half a day, to speed up the drying process.