A cashmere breeding programme led by Italian luxury brand Loro Piana to improve the quality of cashmere available industry-wide, is being expanded to new areas of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.

The initiative, known as ‘The Loro Piana Method,’ was first piloted by the company in 2009, as part of a collaboration with the Jilin Agricultural University, the Italian Camerino University and ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development).

Its aim was to introduce a modern system of selective breeding to optimise cashmere quality – and the results are now said to have been so successful that Loro Piana has been given permission to conduct research on Chinese territory.

The next five years will see the method expand from Alashan towards other areas of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.

By selectively breeding the best goats – whose hair averages below 14 microns (a micron is equivalent to a thousandth of a millimetre, and a human hair measures 30/40 microns) and produce over 500 grams – and rationalising the collection of a cleaner and more homogeneous fibre, the research has enhanced overall fineness while maintaining an elevated quantity of hair per animal.

Consequently, rearing a smaller number of goats allows the shepherds to obtain high annual volumes, which in turn is reflected in improved standards of living as well as a restored balance between animals and habitat. This also contributes to the reduction of environmentally caused desertification.

“The obtained results register an incredible 1-micron improvement in five years,” explains Pier Luigi Loro Piana.

“I am even prouder of the virtuous effects the project has had on the breeders, their livelihood and their land. I expect that these outcomes will motivate additional breeders to support our future endeavours in the constant research for the enrichment of natural raw materials, in the hope to contribute in this way to the improvement of the standards of the whole industry.”

The company is also launching ‘The Loro Piana Cashmere of the Year Award’ to recognise suppliers who produce the best fineness, length and performance.