Hailing from the plains of Mongolia, Saranzul Bazarvaani draws on her nomadic roots to bring the finest, softest cashmere to the Prenzlauer Berg shop she runs with designer Kathleen Hager. The pair have become like siblings — hence the name Cashmere Sisters — and their focus is on sourcing quality yarn directly from nomadic families and small businesses at an ethical price.
At heart she’s still a nomad, says Kathleen Hager of her business partner Saranzul Bazarvaani. “I don’t know anybody else who can pack a backpack and be ready to go that fast.” Mongolian national Saranzul Bazarvaani laughs — for her it’s all normal. These two women are the Cashmere Sisters. They got along just fine on their first business trips to Mongolia, but they got on each other’s nerves too, just like sisters. “So it didn’t take us long to come up with the name for our project.”
For the past two years they have been selling clothing made of pure Mongolian cashmere at their stores in the Northern German city of Lübeck and the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg. Kathleen Hager designs the colourful sweaters, dresses, jackets and scarves, while Saranzul Bazarvaani speaks to the people on-site in Mongolia and negotiates contracts. “The difference is stark – the panoramic vistas of the Mongolian steppe compared with urban Prenzlauer Berg,” says Saranzul Bazarvaani, who first ventured to Berlin in search of better job opportunities. Her cashmere wool is made by nomads, families like her own.
Four times a year, these families are on the move in search of fresh, green grass for their cashmere goats. In the spring, they comb the animals to remove the excess wool. “That makes the material much softer in the end,” explains Saranzul Bazarvaani. “They don’t cut the wool, so the fibres don’t have any sharp edges.” The wool also contains many small air bubbles which ensure that clothing made from cashmere is both warm and lightweight.
“Once they have combed the animals’ coats, the nomads bring the raw wool to small operations where women use it to make yarn. They are also paid directly,” says Saranzul Bazarvaani. This labour-intensive production process has its price. All Mongolian employees who work for Cashmere Sisters have social security plans and receive wages that well exceed the Mongolian average. “That was important to us from the beginning,” says Saranzul Bazarvaani. Her cashmere may not be ideal for small budgets, but it certainly is fair for everyone involved.
All photos by Lena Ganssmann
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