Mongolian Cashmere: Fashion Factory Tour

Extras, Mongolia, Shopping & Style — By on November 4, 2010 at 6:00 am

Lost Girl Julie Falconer recently took a trip to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar and learned about the country’s cashmere industry. Read on for a selection of her personal essays of her trip experiences, and click here for more on Mongolia on Lost Girls World. See Julie’s London travel blog and Asia travel website for more stories.

Mongolia is better known for metals and mining than fashion. Most visitors to the country are there on business, not for shopping. It’s a shame, though, because they miss out on one of the country’s best industries: cashmere. Die-hard fashionistas are aware that Mongolian cashmere is among the best in the world, and Ulaanbaatar is one of the top places to find it. Several companies in the city specialize in the manufacture of cashmere goods, and on my recent trip to Mongolia I was invited by Altai Cashmere to learn more about the industry and its beautiful textiles.

The first place I visited was the Altai Cashmere factory in Ulaanbaatar. Donning a large cotton smock and a cap to cover my hair, I proceeded with a group through the workroom doors and into a large warehouse abuzz with industry.

The guide explained that we were watching the raw cashmere wool go through a process of refinement. As we progressed into a second room, we were able to see (and feel) the wool get smoother with each run through the machines.

From there we moved on to the area where the raw material was turned into thread, then into clothing. After viewing some of the computer designs of the textiles, we walked up a flight of stairs into a bright, airy room where women were sewing and stitching the final garments.

At the end of the Altai Cashmere factory tour, we were able to see the finished products on the shelves of the factory shop. From dresses to sweaters to socks and scarves, everything was beautifully made from the highest quality Mongolian cashmere.

The group of us spent at least an hour in the shop, trying on clothing for ourselves and picking out gifts for our families and friends. At the end of the hour, the cash registers were busy totaling up the merchandise. We were busy totaling up whether the guys in our group had purchased more cashmere sweaters than the girls. Surprisingly, they had.

But the Mongolian cashmere odyssey didn’t stop there. We had seen the progression of the cashmere from raw wool to shop floor, but we had yet to see the latest fashions on the runway. That was remedied later in the week when we were invited to attend a Fashion TV party in Ulaanbaatar, complete with an Altai Cashmere runway show.

We arrived to find ourselves being interviewed by a Fashion TV presenter on the red carpet. This was followed by our entrance into a large room that centered on a catwalk. After accepting the mojitos offered at the door, we made our way to a VIP table reserved for us in the back.

It didn’t take long for us to venture out into the party, though. The music, lights, and allure of beautiful people had us mingling right up until the fashion show started. When it did, the crowd gathered around the catwalk and watched as the models—all of them Mongolian—strutted down the runway.

The show began with a mix of male and female models in styles that were quintessentially Mongolian. The traditional cashmere designs were complimented by fur hats and leather boots. From there the styles transitioned into the global mainstream with hemlines rising and off-the-shoulder dresses replacing the long coats and skirts from the beginning of the show.

By the end of the evening we had seen Altai Cashmere’s entire collection, and we were sufficiently sold on Mongolia’s global predominance on the cashmere scene. We left the country a few days later, all of us dreaming of ways to get back to Ulaanbaatar for more of the country’s softest and most beautiful export.

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