Yak wool: the conscious cashmere?

At the Source – Yaks, Nomads and the Himalayas from Khunu on Vimeo.

As the temperatures drop, you may be reaching for sweaters, jackets, and other garments made from some kind of wool… maybe lambswool, merino, or cashmere. If Julian Wilson and Aaron Pattillo have their way, yak wool may soon be a part of your cold weather fashion mix.

Wilson and Pattillo founded Khunu, a company that makes apparel from this unique material, in 2009. The two discovered yak wool while trekking on the Tibetan plateau, and recognized an opportunity both to introduce this soft, warm fiber to a larger market, and to create a business that supports the impoverished people of Tibet and Mongolia (their main sourcing areas). Launched as a social enterprise, the company purchases the wool at fair trade prices, and returns 2 percent of sales to the communities that supply the raw material.

The arrangement has a number of benefits. First, it makes use of a material generally discarded by the herders: they use the coarser hair to make tents and ropes, but didn’t have much use for the softer fibers. Second, by buying the wool, Khunu ultimately encourages the herders to keep the animals longer, as they produce more hair as they age. Finally, of course, they’ve helping develop a more sustainable economic situation for these people.

Sounds like a genuine “win-win” arrangement… and their products (primarily activewear) are gorgeous — take a look.

See yak wool garments in your wardrobe? Or have some experience with this material? Let us know…