Many of you are travelling abroad for the holidays and whilst some of you are in the Northern hemisphere and enjoying blissful warmth, this travel outfit formula still applies, as I’ve never been on a plane where the temperature hasn’t dipped to polar extremes.
One thing is certain, and I’ve learnt this over the years, temperatures will rise and fall massively when travelling by air. Arrive at airport (cold), lugging bags and herding kids (or colleagues 😆) -hot, grab a drink – cold, walk 5 miles to boarding gate – hot, sit in plane for an hour – baking, mid-air – arctic 🥶 arrive at destination (if UK, cashmere stays on 😆)- heatwave.
I’ve got you covered. It just takes a little planning and a backpack / tote with the essentials to hand. I prefer the former because I like to be hands-free with the kids in tow, but if you’re only heading away for a weekend, you can rest either bag on your carry-on suitcase for easy-wheeling.
Your outfit and items are planned for ease of layering, when needed, and ease of being folded and put away whilst on the move. As my kids have grown my carry-on has become smaller and smaller: a carry-on suitcase was really handy for baby supplies during mid and long-haul flights, but now I just want to travel as light as possible.
Add a small toiletry bag with teeny-tiny essentials (lipstick – essential for the illusion of a fresh face upon landing) so that overzealous security don’t confiscate anything beloved. On that note, always buy or fill your water bottle after the security gate. Place all travel and itinerary documents into a stylish wallet for ease of use and getting through immigration, boarding gates, etc. Put your electronics (kindle, ipad, laptop, chargers,etc.) at the front of your bag & that way you’ll be organised when you get to security and when you’re on the plane and sat down. Sunglasses should always be carried inside their case and I find it easier if they’re at the side of the bag for when needed. Cashmere scarf is best placed, rolled up, at the top of your bag so you can grab it when the cabin temperature plummets.
Optional extras are cashmere socks and beanie. For long haul, I pull the beanie down over my face and go to sleep!
Now to order a drink, wrap up in your cashmere scarf and read a magazine cover-to-cover. This outfit works across all sections of the plane; granted, if you’re in the First cabin you have plenty of room to change into your sleepwear 😆
As with all things worth anything, your time and commitment are needed. Commitment is not a dirty word, not at all. Fast-fashion on the other hand… Even clothing rental has me pondering the level of ease in which we can wear something new each time we have an event or a social function; no commitment needed, not even a dry-clean; just return it and someone else will worry about that! I’ve been wondering lately – what happens to those clothes when they’re no longer fashionable? Being so bored with one’s wardrobe is a fate we have been destined for with the arrival of social media, where everything is shiny and new; celebrities showing off their (borrowed) wares, its only natural that we could get caught up in the allure of newness.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been seduced by the bright lights of Zara and come away with something I didn’t necessarily need, but these are usually in moments of me not feeling, altogether, content. When I buy clothes in a non-emotional state, I have a clear list of what is needed and what, out of my wardrobe, must be replaced. I do this for styling clients and it’s a total pleasure to shop because no time is wasted, no random sale items bought and, ultimately, you have a wardrobe that rotates easily with an abundance of outfits to wear as a result.
“Style is very personal. It has nothing to do with fashion. Fashion is over very quickly. Style is forever.”
Fashion has become a sort of unrelenting machine that makes you feel you need to keep buying to stay relevant. Style is something that you create, because you are unique, not because you’re part of a global trend factory. Impeccable style is attainable, perhaps even more so, with items that have been a part of your wardrobe for years. I love following accounts that create amazing outfits with “old” (for want of a better word) clothes. It shows creativity, ingenuity and commitment towards creating one’s own style. There’s one particular page I love to follow for her sheer commitment to repurposing long-forgotten and rejected items and that’s @convertedcloset. Genius! There’s not one little box that can or should define anyone’s style, but there are some items that are essential to creating a working wardrobe. Namely: the category of knitwear.
Now obviously, I am slightly biased towards cashmere (because I launched my own cashmere brand), but having specialised in knitwear, as a buyer and designer for many years, it is safe to say that I am slightly obsessed. My passion for natural fibres knows no bounds and I have many dreams about how this will ultimately manifest… For now, I want to share some handy tips about how to care for your knitwear.
10 Easy Ways to Keep Your Knitwear Pristine
For some of you, you’ll be in the throes of Winter and will be making good use of your warm knitwear; others, you’ll have packed away your knitwear during the warmer months. Regardless, here are 10 ways to keep your cashmere (or wool) knitwear in excellent shape, year after year.
1. Cashmere does not need to be washed after each wear due to its natural antibacterial properties. It’s does not absorb odours and is naturally breathable and temperature regulating. If your cashmere does need a wash, pop it into a laundry bag (or pillow case) and into the washing machine – it’s far less abrasive than hand-washing and cashmere shouldn’t be left to soak in a bowl. Use a delicate detergent (not pods) and NO SOFTENER, place on a hand-wash cycle at 20-30 degrees. Dry flat, out of direct sunlight. When dry, you can steam it into shape and perfect fluffiness! Do not flat iron.
2. Never dry-clean your cashmere. The chemical are harsh and should be avoided at all costs!
3. If your cashmere needs a freshen-up, but not a full wash, place fully-dry cashmere into a ziploc bag and into a freezer overnight.
4. Never store soiled cashmere – moths are attracted to oils and will happily nibble away. If you do have moths, wash your knitwear immediately, dry and store in the freezer. Have a team come in and fog your house – where there’s one moth, there’ll be more.
5. Defuzz when little balls appear – it keeps your sweater looking chic. The little balls will always appear in areas of high abrasion. The level of pilling depends on the length (quality) of the cashmere fibres. *Mongolian cashmere is known for its superior length and performance (this is what we use!) I prefer the Pilo defuzzer (stocked on our website) to a cashmere comb as I find it very effective, yet gentle. Note: defuzzers WILL NOT work on synthetics or synthetic blends. Another reason not to buy them!
*Inner Mongolia is not Mongolia, but China – some brands knowingly or not, use this term to insinuate high quality yarn, but nothing compares to genuine Mongolian cashmere. It’s a deceptive tagline, understandably difficult to know if you, like me, are unfamiliar with Chinese geography!
6. Don’t buy synthetic blends (or pure synthetics). You cannot neaten these up when they pill, and believe me: pill, they will! Basically anything that contains nylon, polyester, acrylic, spandex, Lycra, lurex. There are many other ecological reasons not to buy them – I’ll save this for another post.
7. Always fold or roll knitwear when storing, never hang. Place a naturally-scented soap bar (lavender is excellent), lavender sachets or cedar blocks/balls in drawers/storage boxes or on shelves. You can place acid-free tissue paper on shelves/in drawers too, if you really want to go all out. Cashmere (wool and fine cotton knits too) can be stored in the freezer (place into a waterproof storage bag – check these out from Lakeland UK- or a ziploc if that’s what you have to hand). I have a dedicated chest freezer for mine, as they can be stored all summer-long!
8. Invest in a steamer. A good hand-held one will do. These keep your cashmere looking perfect. A quick way to freshen up your knitwear; gentle and effective. A quick steam also brings the sweater back into shape and gives that feathery surface extra oomph and, what I like to call, the “halo” effect, unique to cashmere. Check out these steamers.
9. Accept no imitations. Cashmere is a uniquely superfine and hollow fibre, which gives it its signature lightweight and warm properties. And whilst man-made synthetics may try and simulate this lofty fibre, it never comes close – acrylic “cashmere” has a slightly sticky quality when touched and will definitely make you sweat (and smell). Much like silk, cashmere has inherent, and wonderful, organically-produced properties that synthetics simply cannot replicate. A (polyester) satin pillowcase is oft misrepresented as the real deal – satin is a weave, not a fibre and polyester, like a latex balloon, will give you static, not luscious hair!
10. Browse our collections, online now. Hehe! Just a cheeky way to introduce you to my small, but no less luxurious, cashmere brand: ALABASTE (pronounced A-luh-bast) . Each piece comes in its own cotton storage bag – they also double-up as great organisation bags for small items when travelling. Cashmere is not as delicate as one might be led to believe – its softness is misleading, because it is an extremely robust and tenacious fibre; I wear my cashmere sweaters to hike in, walk the dogs in, cuddle-up-and-sleep-on-an-airplane in and head to dinner in. I literally wear my sweaters like t-shirts and they’re all in excellent condition. If cashmere is looked after, your sweaters will happily last a lifetime.
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For those that have worn cashmere, you’ll know that there’s no other yarn quite like it; lightweight yet warm, soft yet durable and, notably, completely natural. The beauty of good cashmere, when cared for, is that it will last you a lifetime and can be handed down to generations after you.
What makes it even more perfect is that its easy-care too. No longer having to dry-clean, as was the questionable advice given in previous decades, but rather popping into the washing machine (in a mesh bag) on a hand-wash cycle at 20 degrees, using a gentle detergent and NO conditioner. Because of its antimicrobial qualities, washing your cashmere isn’t always necessary after each wear, but you can refresh it by placing it into a ziploc bag and into the freezer for the night. You can actually do this with your jeans too; save on water and have fresh ‘n frozen clothes!
Not all cashmere is the same
Cashmere hails from the Kashmir region (including Pakistan, China, India and, further afield, Mongolia) and it should only be gently combed, not sheared, from the Kashmir goats in Spring, when the weather is notably warmer. The fibres are then sorted and graded and sent for their final processes before dying (using non-toxic dyes), spinning and knitting or weaving.
It’s important to buy your cashmere from a reputable brand that insists on ethical and eco-friendly production. Some cashmere is blended with other yarns to offer cheaper prices. Some blend with other yarns at not so cheaper prices! Mongolian cashmere is known to be the best in the world due to the fibre length (this means less pilling for you). This is because the conditions in Mongolia are harsh and the goats need thicker coats in Winter, which they would naturally shed in Spring. Check the labels!
The Ultimate Cashmere Sweater
I always wanted to buy the perfect cashmere sweater and I could never find it; a classic (not traditional) silhouette, a great fit, long enough sleeves, available in great colours and low-pilling. In the end, I decided to create my own. It took time, not only to get the fit right, but also to find a supplier who shared my values.
What our customers say
Without a doubt our Le Sweatshirt and ALABASTE X AFRICA sweaters are the most essential pieces for your wardrobe; the most flattering shape, incredible quality and the feedback we receive from customers is mostly to buy another one!
Browse our latest collection
If you haven’t joined our cashmere club now, don’t waste another minute. We welcome you with cashmere-covered open arms! Check our latest collection online now there is a shade for everyone.
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The most wonderful time of the year! Hmmm, its been a year, that’s for sure!
With travel grinding to a halt to South Africa, I thought I’d put together a ‘wardrobe essentials’ list that showcases some of my favourite SA brands and stores – it includes some international brands too.
This festive season is usually a time where these brands are fawned over by world travellers, but alas, many trips have had to be cancelled this Christmas. If you follow my brand, Alabaste Cashmere, you’ll know about my pieces, but the studios and stores I have tagged (below) are favourites of mine and I wanted to share for some holiday outfit inspiration.
These items work well for the festive season and beyond. So, take a look and let me know what you think.