We are in the middle of December, with winter barely underway. It is getting distinctly colder. Warm weather is a long way off. The beginning of March is something like 10 weeks away; Easter another seven beyond that. It surely is time to crack out the cashmeres again. Or not!?

Asos, a major British online fashion and cosmetic retailer, whose website offers over 850 brands as well as its own range of clothing and accessories, recently declared that it was banning the use of cashmere and mohair from products promoted on its site. High-end animal fibres seem to have become the fashion industry’s equivalent of plastic.

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Brown & blue: including the photo on the home page, a couple of cashmeres to keep me warm this winter

It apparently takes the coats of four goats to provide sufficient material to make a cashmere sweater. Compare this to wool, where one sheep can supply enough to produce five sweaters. Since this is Christmas we’ll go easy on the bad news but the whole story is bound up with overworked and poorly paid farmers in Mongolia having to increase the size of their herds to cope with the demand for cashmere; demand fuelled by the fact that one can regularly find 100% cashmere jumpers available on the high street for well under £100. The complications of the market – supply and demand and all that – led to Stella McCartney committing to halt production of any ‘virgin’ (i.e. pure) cashmere products. On the other hand, the Evening Standard in London pointed out that &Daughter, which sells luxurious sweaters and cardigans turned out by mills in Scotland and Ireland, has just launched a range of pure cashmere sweaters on Net-a-Porter. They are priced at £315. In fairness to the farmers (and the goats), it is probably what they’re worth.