Tengri has been sourcing yak yarn from Mongolia since 2014. © 123RF
Tengri has been sourcing yak yarn from Mongolia since 2014. © 123RF

Yak yarn sought as cashmere alternative

2 February 2016

The first Mongolian yak yarn made in the UK has been launched with the aim of providing a more sustainable alternative to cashmere.

London-based clothing brand and social enterprise Tengri, which has been sourcing yak yarn from Mongolia since 2014, is now using UK mills to make a more refined yarn using the yak fibre.

The company, which will use the yarn in its own clothing products but is also hoping to supply it to other labels, said that its Khangai Noble Yarns Collection would provide the most refined yak yarns so far, with properties similar luxury wools such as vicuna and cashmere.

The UK production will offer manufacturers yarn made from sustainable and ethically produced fibres with 100 percent traceable supply chain provenance, and the craftsmanship and heritage of UK mills, the company said.

The aim of the business is to provide a progressive and sustainable alternative to cashmere, sourcing hand-combed fibres from indigenous and semi-wild noble yak from the Khangai mountains from Mongolian herder co-operatives, and now, using the textile technologists and craftsmen from woollen mills in Yorkshire and Scotland to produce the yarn.

The global supply of cashmere is under threat from the effects of climate change, Tengri said, and unsustainable levels of cashmere goats and other livestock have significantly reduced the amount of land for animals to graze across the Tibetan plateau, Mongolia and northern India.

“The fashion industry is experiencing, first-hand, the detrimental impact that economic and environmental challenges are having on the root source of much of its premium yarns,” said Tengri founder Nancy Johnston.

“This can be seen in the supply and quality of the world’s cashmere produce. The current landscape is unsustainable and we must make a change.”

Johnston launched Tengri after living in Mongolia with herder families and seeing an opportunity for a collective movement of design, fashion, ethics, business, environmental activism and individual consumer choice.

Tengri has established a ‘fairshare’ business model with co-operatives involving over 1,500 nomadic herder families in the steppes of Mongolia who are working with the brand to supply its fibres from the noble yak species.

“While supporting the livelihoods of herder families, our collaboration also provides the industry with a unique premium product while regenerating its source, the communities and land that bear these precious fruits,” said Johnston.

Tengri also imports all the waste fibres from the hand combing process to the UK and is working with textile technologists to make use of the waste fibre, including using green technologies, closed-loop systems, ballistic-based technology and waterless and toxic-free dyes made from locally sourced plants to produce sustainable products.

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