‘Cashmere - The Origin of a Secret’ is a fitting tribute to the perseverance of the traditional goat herders of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, who for generations have worked in one of earth’s harshest landscapes, but whose way of life is now threatened by forces beyond their control.
Experiencing first-hand this rugged environment, living among the communities and the herds he so sensitively portrays, this film has deepened Luc Jacquet’s understanding of evolution, and of life itself: “There is no will, it is just a matter of time and evolution. Humans evolve with the animals, you cannot remove one without the other. In the end, it is evolution that produces these amazing fibres”, says Jacquet.
Herders have always bred Capra hircus goats sustainably, gathering the fibres in harmony with the natural cycle and transmitting their knowledge from generation to generation. Recently, the intensification of breeding has disrupted a century-old ecological balance, causing desertification of the territory and a reduction in the quality of the fibres. Loro Piana works closely with local communities and producers, pledging to protect and conserve the native species and the fragile ecosystem of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, and to help maintain the traditional culture.
In the Altai and Helan mountains, in the dunes of the Gobi Desert and the Alashan County, the climate undergoes some of the most extreme changes in temperature: from day to night and from season to season.
Long, dry winters stretch on for months, reaching extreme levels of cold and bringing frequent blizzards. Spring is milder, but with it comes vast, dangerous sandstorms and during summer, the sun is scorching, rain is rare, and water and food are scarce.
Capra hircus goat
Embodying all the elements of survival, the Capra hircus goat is a small yet extremely resilient animal that’s evolved to withstand some of the harshest conditions on earth.
Adapting in harmony with the extreme seasons, the goat’s outer fleece shields it from rain, sun and dust, while a soft, insulating underfleece lies beneath: the hidden treasure known as cashmere.
Mongolian and Chinese Herdsmen
The nomadic herder community lives at the limit of the liveable in the extremities of Mongolia. Herdsmen have an intimate knowledge of the land on which they live and the animals that inhabit it.
With generations of knowledge, they can read the exact signs of the right time to collect the precious cashmere fibres – collecting them in harmony with the natural cycles of life.
The Project: The Documentary Trilogy
‘Cashmere - The Origin of a Secret’, is the first film in a trilogy directed by Luc Jacquet, ecologist and Academy Award-winning director of the “March of the Penguins”, at the invitation of Loro Piana. In these three projects the director explores the origin of the most iconic raw fibres for Loro Piana, stunning tributes to the brand’s excellences: Cashmere, Vicuna and The Gift of Kings®.
For more than six generations, Loro Piana has pursued a quest to source fibres of the rarest quality from the most remote places in the world and used them to create exquisite fabrics and garments.
‘Cashmere - The Origin of a Secret’ paints a portrait of enduring harmonies, intense harshness and sublime softness – excellences found in extremes. Drawing on a fascination with the delicate symbiosis between humans, animals and the environment, this is the first time Luc Jacquet has filmed a human experience of living in a world which is constantly challenged by the vicissitudes of nature.
Only unique conditions produce fibre with the character to create superlative textiles. Securing those fibres takes years of struggle, deep knowledge and enduring partnerships with local producers based on mutual trust and respect. In harsh, rugged landscapes, Loro Piana has forged unprecedented working relationships with communities. In this way, Loro Piana both works with nature to produce the world’s best fabric and actively helps to sustain natural environments and local cultures. Taken as a whole, it represents a uniquely pioneering form of sustainable manufacture.
The Loro Piana Method
In 2009, Loro Piana set out to encourage local cashmere production in China by supporting goat herders’ efforts, production processes and skills, as an integral part of the company’s ethical responsibility. In the same year, the brand developed “The Loro Piana Method”, a modern system of selective breeding designed to optimise the quality of the cashmere produced across the Alashan County – later extended to the whole of Inner Mongolia.
Enhancing fibre fineness, while maintaining a high volume of down per animal, the method reduces the number of goats and improves their standard of living – restoring an ancient balance between the animals and their habitat. With an aim to improve the quality of cashmere in the region and establish a sustainable use of the land, it’s an initiative that has a long-term view to instil a greater social message while affirming Loro Piana’s commitment to the quality of its work – from the fibre to the end product for its customers.
“The Loro Piana Method” was developed in collaboration with the Jilin Agricultural University in China, the Academy of Science of Inner Mongolia, the University of Camerino in Italy and the ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development).