In the western part of China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is nestled the mostly desert and desert-grassland region of Alashan. With the Gobi Desert to the west, the Helan Mountains and the north-flowing Yellow river to the east, the Alashan region is situated on a plateau having an average altitude of 1,000 to 1,400 meters. This region experiences some of the most extreme changes in temperature – from day to night and from season to season.
In this region of extremes live the hardy little native Capra hircus goats, whose tenacious spirit is shared by their dedicated native herders. These goats produce some of the finest cashmere in the world. What’s more, their nomadic herders have always farmed these goats sustainably, using generations of knowledge and gathering fibres in harmony with the cycle of nature. The documentary film, ‘Cashmere – The Origin of a Secret’ explores the delicate symbiosis between humans, animals and the environment of the Alashan region, where intense harshness gives birth to sublime softness.
“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, and in the end, it is evolution that produces these amazing fibres.” – Luc Jacquet, the film’s director
Luc Jacquet, the French ecologist and Academy Award winner, who directed the film immersed himself, as always, into the world of his subject by experiencing first-hand this rugged environment, by living among the nomadic communities and their herds. Jacquet’s debut film ‘March of the Penguins’ (2005) won four awards, including an Academy Award for Best Documentary. His other acclaimed projects include ‘The Fox and the Child’ (2007), ‘Once Upon a Forest’ (2013), ‘Ice and Sky’ (2015), and ‘March of the Penguins 2’ (2017).
Jacquet’s documentary film was commissioned by Loro Piana, the Italian clothing brand known for its sourcing and manufacture of the highest quality cashmere, Baby Cashmere, vicuña and wools, as well as for its collections of modern classic clothes for men and women, and signature accessories. For more than six generations, Loro Piana’s activity has been progressive and ethical, with a focus on protecting the wildlife and environments from which the brand sources its precious raw materials. It also supports the preservation and development of the skills needed to transform those precious raw materials into exceptional products. The brand sources its rare fibres from some of the most far-flung places around the world. The Loro Piana cashmere, known for its superlative softness, lightness and warmth, is ethically sourced from the Capra hircus goats of the Alashan region.
‘Cashmere’ is the first documentary in a trilogy directed by Jacquet at the invitation of Loro Piana. The three documentaries by Jacquet explores the origin of the three most iconic raw fibres of Loro Piana – Cashmere, Vicuna and The Gift of Kings
Fabio d’Angelantonio, Loro Piana’s CEO, said: “With Luc, we share a profound respect for this life governed by the elements. Through his artistic lens, he has been able to capture the wonder of this endeavour which has captivated us so profoundly for over half a century. It is a stunning homage to Loro Piana’s partnership with the communities who dedicate their lives to harvesting some of the most precious fibres in the world.”
The premiere of ‘Cashmere’ was held at MIFA 1862 Art Center in Shanghai on October 19. In addition to Jacquet, the event was attended by the top brass at Loro Piana, including d’Angelantonio, Pier Luigi Loro Piana, and Luisa Loro Piana. Also, in attendance were local politicians, socialites and celebrities such as Li Bingbing (Goodwill Ambassador of UNEP and Global Ambassador of WWF Earth Hour), Ai Tominaga, Stephen Fung and Jimin Han.
Before the screening of the film, guests were invited on an immersive journey through the spellbinding yet inhospitable environments of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia. Guests were encouraged to touch the raw fibres and experience the sensation of Loro Piana’s cashmere. During the film, a live thirty-three-piece orchestra performed the original score for the film, created by Emmy nominated composer, Cyrille Aufort. The documentary will be screened privately around the world as well as being made available to the public on the Loro Piana website.
After the screening, d’Angelantonio, Jacquet and Loro Piana’s Vice President, Pier Luigi Loro Piana went on stage to announce the recipients of ‘The Loro Piana Cashmere of the Year Award’; a prestigious tribute created to support and celebrate those who nurture the goats and harvest the rare fibres.
Traditional Native Herders have always farmed Capra hircus goats sustainably, based on generational knowledge. Recently, the introduction of a new, more productive, but less sustainable breed, has been disrupting the long-established ecological balance. To promote a sustainable development model that contributes to a balance between animals, the environment and local populations, which in turn preserves the quality of the cashmere, Loro Piana launched “The Loro Piana Method” in 2009. It supports the local communities and producers who pledge to protect and conserve the native species and the fragile ecosystem of Inner Mongolia, and to help maintain the traditional culture.
The introduction of “The Loro Piana Method” resulted in a noticeable improvement in the fineness of the cashmere fibres. This encouraged the brand to embark on another venture. In 2015, “The Loro Piana Cashmere of the Year Award” was born, to support and celebrate those who harvest the finest cashmere. Now, numerous herdsmen and trusted suppliers strive for this award based on the objective criteria of fineness, length and performance.
This year’s winners of the award were Mr. Zhang Mingzhu and Mrs. Li Yumei, along with Mr. Suyalatu and Mrs. Burenqiqige, whose total adult cashmere weight was 112.3 kg, with a fibre diameter of 13.6 microns and a length of 28 mm; making it the finest cashmere fibre collected from adult goats since the award was established.