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Luxury Label Maiyet is Selling Responsibly-Sourced Cashmere Yarn

When ethical luxury label Maiyet launched in 2011, it aimed to partner with and source skill sets from artisans around the world for handcrafted details to incorporate into its collections.

“The goal is elevating and preserving those crafts and also stimulating local economies, but we had never really looked incredibly deeply to find a unique sourcing strategy at the supply chain level,” said Lauren Hurst, director of marketing at the New York-based brand, speaking last week at Cradle to Cradle’s Product Symposium.

That all changed about a year and a half ago when Maiyet partnered with the group’s Fashion Positive initiative to start working toward certification and decided to look into alternative wool, cashmere and blends for its knitwear.

Enter Naadam, a contemporary and socially conscious cashmere line that debuted in 2010 and sources its fiber from nomadic goat herders in Mongolia.

“We’re working with Matt [Scanlan, Naadam’s co-founder and CEO] through the herders there to find a really interesting solution,” Hurst continued. “We’re buying those materials raw in Mongolia and working with the [the Cascami Seta plant of Botto Giuseppe] in Italy—it’s a fourth generation, family-run mill that’s also really focused on environmental and sustainable practices—to spin it into yarn.”

That 100 percent cashmere yarn, which has achieved Cradle to Cradle’s bronze accreditation, is now on the market and will appear in Fashion Positive’s open-source materials library of certified “building blocks,” set to launch in 2016.

“And as the library becomes available, it’s something that we hope we can, in our own way, help elevate the conversation on opportunities in sustainability in our level of fashion,” she added.

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“What we do is we work very closely with these nomadic herding populations; they’re literally in the middle of nowhere and it takes forever to get to them, but the benefit of doing that is going straight to the source and so what comes of going straight to the source is a unique opportunity to support them with a non-profit model built around microeconomic development,” Scanlan explained. “So essentially what we strive to do is impact their livelihood by investing in things that strategically impact their village and make more money. It’s really simple. The way we look at it is we can change their lives by investing in veterinary programs or breeding programs.”

To that end, Naadam and Maiyet together invested about $80,000 in a veterinary program this year that supported 1,000 nomadic herding families in Mongolia.

“We inoculated 250,000 goats in a region about the size of Rhode Island, offering 100 percent coverage for the region, saved each family about $1,200 which was approximately 25 percent of their annual income,” he said, adding, “We’re not only impacting each family, we’re changing the economy of the region and getting what we believe to be the best raw material on planet earth.”

Maiyet is now working with Naadam to find additional partners and hopes one day to be able to offer the yarn at a volume so that it can become more accessible to brands that might sell at a lower price point than a luxury label.

The company is also taking several steps towards reaching Cradle to Cradle’s gold certification, one of which is on the dye front.

“That’s really what we’re working through now,” Hurst shared. “For us as a brand to work with Cradle to Cradle at this early stage in Fashion Positive and this new venture for us, it’s presented us with a unique opportunity to go down a path that can lead to dyes that anyone can use, this idea of creating more of an open-source solution, hopefully on the dye front, but obviously on this unique yarn.”

She added, “The consumer goods industry, the fashion industry, impacts a massive global market. The supply chain, all the way down, is one of the most massive industries in the world. Our approach at this stage is to go with that tide and do what we can to make it better, to do it better from the start.”