The best cashmere sweaters –almost as a rule– are knit and hand-finished in Scotland, and the same Scottish mills that knit sweaters for Chanel and Hermes knit sweaters for Isle of Skye Cashmere.
This means that the cashmere sweaters at Isle of Skye Cashmere are as well made as any cashmere sweater you’ll find at Chanel.
But it also means that through direct sourcing and low overheads, I’m able to offer cashmere sweaters of the highest quality at a reasonable price.
My experience shows that you’d be hard pressed to find sweaters made in Scotland priced more attractively than mine.
That being said, there are plenty of cashmere sweaters on the market today that are far less expensive than the cashmere sweaters I offer at Isle of Skye Cashmere.
But here’s the rub: these lower cost cashmere sweaters –without exception– are mass produced for companies where standards of construction are lackluster at best.
Indeed, companies that mass-produce cashmere sweaters cut costs by making inferior products – cashmere sweaters that sag at the elbows, cashmere sweaters that pill, and cashmere sweaters that are knit at a low gauge.
More alarmingly, the workers that mass-produce these cashmere sweaters often earn only a few dollars per hour.
Conversely, knitters in Scotland –the knitters that knit for Isle of Skye Cashmere– earn a livable wage; they produce sustainable knitwear; and they adhere to environmental and labor regulations that are similar, if not more stringent, than those enforced in the United States.
In short, companies that mass-produce cashmere sweaters make compromises to achieve a lower cost that Isle of Skye Cashmere is not willing to make. The result of these compromises is a compromised, inferior product – a ‘mass-produced’ cashmere sweater in the worst sense of the word.
For mass-produced sweaters, the first area of compromise is often raw materials – the cashmere fibers.
In sourcing cashmere fibers, it’s true that you pay for what you get.
The best, most expensive fibers are thinner, softer and longer. They are therefore less likely to pill. They are also whiter (color purity when dying).
When mass-producers want to save money, they start with inferior fibers. These fibers are thicker, coarser, shorter, and therefore more likely to pill. They are also off-white (muddy dyed color).
Unfortunately, to the untrained eye, inferior cashmere fibers are extremely difficult to detect. Often, it’s only after wearing and cleaning the cashmere that you’ll notice the difference.
The low-quality fiber shows! The sweater looks and feels worn. It has lots of pilling. It’s not as soft as you would like it to be. Nor is it colorful and bright.
The second compromise mass-producers make: quality of construction – and here it’s easy to cut corners.
Scottish mills –the mills that knit sweaters for Chanel, Hermes, and Isle of Skye Cashmere– use a technique called “fully fashioning” when finishing sweaters.
During this process, individual pieces are linked together with cashmere yarn. And this is done by hand.
This process provides our cashmere sweaters a flexible, comfortable fit. It ensures that our sweaters will retain their shape.
Conversely, mass-producers often do anything but “fully fashion” their sweaters.
Mass-producers often sew sweaters together with machine and thread. This creates a less tailored, awkward fit. (Note: Another small area of compromise is the quality of buttons: Isle of Skye Cashmere uses mother of pearl buttons, whereas mass-producers often use plastic buttons, resulting in an inferior product.)
The third compromise mass-producers make: less cashmere in each cashmere sweater.
Mass producers do this by knitting at a lower gauge (density of knitting stitches).
The Scottish mills that knit for Chanel, Hermes, and Isle of Skye Cashmere knit 2-ply sweaters at 21-gauge. This gives each cashmere sweater a silky, soft drape.
Conversely, you’ll find inferior sweaters are often knit at 15-gauge. This saves money because the lower the gauge, the less cashmere.
Low gauge results in cashmere sweaters that are loose and gauzy. These cashmere sweaters lose shape over time. They bag at the shoulders and elbow.
The fourth compromise mass-producers always make: they knit cashmere sweaters in developing countries, often paying workers only a couple of dollars on the hour.
Isle of Skye Cashmere sources cashmere sweaters from Scotland – primarily from a family-owned company that pays skilled workers a living wage. Further, Scotland has environmental regulations similar, if not more stringent, to those in the US. The steps required to keep the water and air clean are costly.
Many developing countries fail to impose environmental regulations on mass-producers. Accordingly, there are few costs incurred to mitigate the impact of production processes on the environment.
It is an unfortunate reality, but a reality nonetheless.
So the next time you’re looking to buy a cashmere sweater, I hope you’ll keep the information above in mind.
Look at the label. Does it say “Made in China” or “Made in Scotland”?
I have no problem trying to save money on cashmere sweaters; but I do want to provide a clear and transparent alternative to consumers who value craftsmanship and lasting quality. I want to provide cashmere sweaters to consumers who are concerned about the impact of production on workers and the environment. (I have grandchildren!)
These are the values Isle of Skye Cashmere is all about.
Founder and Owner – Isle of Skye Cashmere
I started Isle of Skye Cashmere over 15 years ago with the idea that I ought to be able to find top quality cashmere at a fair and reasonable price. It seemed like a simple concept, but it proved to be very challenging to execute. It was particularly difficult when the world was moving in the direction of “fast fashion” and rock bottom pricing for clothes mass produced in the Far East by mill workers earning less than $2 per hour and working 7 days a week.
I solved the first part of this equation by identifying Scottish yarn spinners and knitting mills as the best in the business. All of my sweaters use yarn spun and dyed by the 2 premier yarn makers in Scotland. And my sweaters are knit in Hawick, Scotland by 3 mills that make sweaters for the premier European designers such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes. In 2012, Chanel publicly affirmed their belief in the supremacy of Scottish cashmere by acquiring Barrie Knitwear…a knitting mill in Hawick Scotland. Chanel saved this longtime supplier from bankruptcy and assured they would continue to be able to produce cashmere sweaters for their collections made by the finest craftsmen in the world. We use Barrie Knitwear as one of our suppliers… I source a number of the sweaters on my website from this mill. You can read about Chanel and their love affair with Scottish Cashmere here.
The second part of my equation was delivering Scottish Cashmere to my customers at a reasonable price. I accomplished this by sourcing directly from the mills in Scotland and keeping my overhead very low. My customers don’t have to pay the markups for several layers of middlemen, for expensive real estate on Madison Avenue, or for lavish advertising and promotion budgets.
Having said all of this, I know that my sweaters are not cheap…most are in the $250 to $500 range. However, Isle of Skye Cashmere Sweaters are foundation pieces – basics for your wardrobe that will last years and years. They will maintain their shape, their rich color, and their silky soft feel long after you have thrown away those cheaper “fast fashion” cashmere sweaters. And the quality of my sweaters is comparable to the ones produced by the high-end designers such as Chanel or Brunello Cucinelli- which have a price tag of several thousand dollars or more.
Now, more companies in the ecommerce world have adopted business concepts that are similar to the ones I started with. There is a lot being written today about “The Power of Buying Less by Buying Better”. The recent article in The Atlantic now describes this as a trend:
“There’s a big trend in the growth of ecological sensibility, the growth in demand for artisanal products, and more handmade items,” explains Juliet Schor, a professor of economics and sociology at Boston College who studies consumer behavior. “More people are rejecting mass-production for aesthetic reasons and because of the exploitation in the fast-fashion system.”
But I started my business this way in 2000, not because it was a trend, but because I believe in quality, craftsmanship, and fair pricing as principles of doing business. It seems that the number of other companies that are promoting these same ideas is growing, and I am really happy about that. The more that other businesses sell the power of “fewer, better things”, then the more customers will come to appreciate what Isle of Skye Cashmere Sweaters are all about.
In the Fall of 2010, when my store was open, I wrote down my ideas about clothing and style in a document titled “Style Manifesto”. You can read the full text here, but the introductory paragraph describes the basic concept around which I created my store:
At Isle of Skye Cashmere, our selection of clothes is based on a personal aesthetic that values classic style and quality over fashion and fad.
Our style sense starts with the idea that a woman’s wardrobe should be built on a foundation of high quality classic pieces. These foundation pieces should be your investment pieces – of lasting quality and the best you can afford.
Although my store has closed and I am focusing on my online cashmere sweater business, my ideas about this business have not changed.
My goal is to help you look and feel your best in our sweaters. I specialize in selling my own brand of cashmere sweaters knit in Scotland with only the very best yarn. Isle of Skye Cashmere sweaters are designed and made to look better, feel better, and last longer than any other sweaters you own. They are knit and hand-finished by the mills that make cashmere sweaters for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes. The cashmere sweaters from our mills stand apart in the runway shows in Paris and Milan because their attention to the details of style, fit, finish, and overall quality make them the best in the world.
I believe in a classic, sophisticated style of dressing that emphasizes beautiful fabrics, impeccable fit, and a foundation of basic colors. Our selection of cashmere sweater styles and colors reflects this point of view.
If you have any questions about Isle of Skye cashmere sweaters, please call our toll free line at 888-343-6771. Most of the time, this is forwarded directly to my cell phone so that I can personally answer your questions and help you in any way. If I am unable to take your call, just leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
And cashmere cardigans make living easy. For those cool nights on the Cape, nothing quite compares. Likewise with cashmere shawls: they’ll keep you comfortable, chic. Warm but never too warm, our sweaters and shawls –made with pure Scottish Cashmere– are perfect for those balmy island nights, for those late evening walks down shore. So say you’re fogged in on the Grey Lady –‘Sconset, Nantucket– or maybe you’ve gone out west –the Bay Area– to visit an ambitious, adventurous son (this August mine is married a year!): a sweater or shawl ensures you won’t miss out on Surfside clambakes, on late afternoon rambles through Golden Gate Park. Lightweight, whisper soft: Isle of Skye Cashmere is clothing to wear with any kind of weather – no matter the coast. It makes comfort and style easy; it gives shelter from the fog. Summertime with family and friends! If only things were always this good!
Nothing quite compares to cashmere when it comes to style, not even cotton is so gentle on skin: wear it with jeans, wear it with a dress or slacks and you’ll feel wonderful – of course you’ll look fabulous! But any garment so versatile and comfortable requires a minimum of care. Whether it’s new shoes, a new cut or a twinset, special items deserve special attention. My customers want the best return on their investment, and to that end I’ve always provided instructions: with each sweater comes a note outlining proper care – how to wash it, how to store it, etc. But we all live such busy lives! Kids are off to college, dogs need vaccines and houses demand renovation! Cards get lost (where’s a set of instructions when you need it!), so I thought to publish my instructions here. A blog ensures they’re easy to access; it ensures your sweaters –thank heavens they’re timeless!– will keep for years.
The instructions that follow are simple, straightforward. Taken as a whole, they amount to just a little TLC.
After wearing three or four times:
- Hand wash frequently. Avoid heavy soiling.
- For best results, soak for five minutes in cool water with baby shampoo. (We recommend Johnson’s Baby Shampoo with Lavender Scent.)
- Agitate gently when washing.
- Rinse thoroughly in cool water until the water runs clean.
- Squeeze gently to remove excess water. But don’t twist or wring out your sweater.
- Block carefully into shape. Do not twist or ring the fabric.
- Dry flat. Avoid direct heat or sunshine.
A note about pilling: A few small balls of fiber may form at the surface of your sweater after wearing the first few times. These balls, or “pills,” are caused by loose fiber tangling during wear. Pills can easily be removed by hand.
A note about moths: they love cashmere! We suggest that you keep your sweater in a storage bag to protect it.
Finally, proper care will ensure your sweater lasts for years! I’ve even found my sweaters’ softness to improve following the instructions above. I know! It’s hard to believe! But you’ll find your sweater’s quality gets better and better.
Note to Reader: Customers often ask how I got started and I thought to respond in greater detail with my blog. Below is the overview of a conversation I recently had with our chief blogger.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have!
Why did you start Isle of Skye Cashmere?
We had just moved back to the States after spending years in South America. Venezuela –our home away from home– was warm enough to make sweaters unnecessary, so I needed to update my winter wardrobe.
After shopping at high end boutiques and department stores across the country my choices were surprisingly clear – in fact I was shocked by my limited options! Cashmere came in only two kinds: loosely knit and liable to pill, or of high quality but more expensive than dinner at The French Laundry!
Why did I want cashmere – in particular, Scottish cashmere? Not only is it whisper soft and stylish, but a cashmere sweater is so gentle on skin. Allergies had always bothered me and back in the States, the fall pollen was especially taxing. Also, winter was on its way and looking over my closet left me feeling unprepared.
But I needed something I could afford, something that would last…
So just like that, Isle of Skye Cashmere was born.
I ended up buying one of those sweaters more expensive than The French Laundry –I needed something! – but I also researched its origins, trying to find its actual cost.
Pretty soon I’d convinced myself to start my own business – never mind I hadn’t worked in business for over 10 years!
High quality, affordable cashmere – my wardrobe needed it! – but more importantly, I thought what I wanted was representative: maybe other women had spent days shopping at the best stores, frustrated. Maybe they even needed it due to sensitive skin, like me.
I contacted a mill in Scotland (the research I mentioned above), my husband helped with a website, and just a week after receiving my first shipment from Scotland, my first order came in: a twin set in periwinkle blue.
I was surprised, even thrilled.
Things were slow at first (I stored inventory in a room next to my home office.) But one order led to the next and then… Real Simple Magazine called! But that’s a story for another time.
A few years later I opened my first store, surprising everyone – most of all myself.
Looking back, you could almost say I found my way into the business the way people say you find your way into anything that makes good sense! What I had was one really good idea. But I learned that when you’re starting a business, good ideas are the key to sustainable growth and long-term success!
As many of you know, I have closed the Isle of Skye Retail Store while I continue my rehabilitation for my broken femur. My surgeons have told me it will take a full year to rehab, and I take them at their word.
During this time, I continue to have the Isle of Skye Cashmere website open.
I know my Cincinnati customers prefer to come to the store, so I have decided to open for my valued customers. My store will be open for a Special Sale , Wednesday, September 30 and Thursday, October 1 from 11am – 5:30pm. All Isle of Skye Cashmere sweaters will be on sale at 40% off. My other merchandise will be on sale at 50% off.
This will be a great opportunity to stock up on Christmas gifts!
In addition, I have invited ThRedheads and Girl with Pearl ( from
Cleveland) to join in this sale.
ThRedHeads offers “Men’s formalwear with Flair. Tux shirts with a
Twist and gorgeous cumberbund sets.” All ThRedHeads merchandise will be on sale at 35% off.
Girl with Pearl offers “Luxe pearls, pendants, gemstones, lizard
purses, buckles and more.” All Girl with Pearl merchandise will be on sale at 35% off.
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone! I miss you all!
Isle of Skye Cashmere
7801 Laurel Ave.
Cincinnati OH 45243
Alterations have the power to turn an okay garment and transform it into something that looks like it was made just for you. In this time of “fast fashion” and disposable clothing, many women don’t want to invest the money in a high-quality garment that doesn’t fit them correctly. One of the fantastic things that we do here at Isle of Skye Cashmere is offer free alterations on garments bought in the store.
I highly recommend taking the time to tailor your clothes so they fit you like a glove. Although proper fit is the primary reason for tailoring, alterations can also help to modernize your clothes or update them to line up with your evolving sense of style. One of the most common garments that need to be tailored to ensure a correct fit are blazers. Our blazers that are made with Loro Piana cashmere are beautiful – but with proper tailoring, they become extraordinary! Our seamstress, Chanta, has many years of experience working with these fantastic blazers.
Tailoring your clothes can help you cultivate a wardrobe filled with things that you love to wear! We tailor clothes bought in the store as well as clothes bought elsewhere. We’d love to help you perfect your wardrobe.
Isle of Skye Cashmere