Mongolian herders hold the secret to one of the world’s softest and most valuable wools: not cashmere, not merino but yak. These majestic beasts are the surprising providers of sought-after knits that are exquisitely warm, luxurious to the touch and, thanks to companies like Hangai Mountain Textiles that source and manufacture their products entirely within Mongolia, also traceable and sustainable.
Betina and Bill Infante, co-founders and principals of Hangai, work with 3,000 herders and local co-ops in Mongolia to produce their collection of blankets, throws and wearable ponchos and hoodies, made from the finest yak down as well as cashmere and camel down. Having lived and worked in Mongolia for more than a dozen years, they work exclusively with partners who share their values and seek to build meaningful, fair and just partnerships, while helping to revitalize a traditional craft by making it both valuable and viable.
Featured in some of the most exclusive hotels and interior design showrooms across the U.S., Hangai’s yak down textiles are a rare and luxurious alternative to cashmere and other fibers. Furthermore, yak have a special sustainability story:
- They are relatively light on the land because they graze without uprooting the native steppe grasses like other animals.
- Hangai’s yak down is hand-combed, not sheared, which is gentler on the animals.
- It is never dyed, so the designs are made from fiber that express the natural variations in the animals’ coloration resulting in a beautiful palette of platinum grays and rich browns, without using any chemicals.
- Yak wool is warmer than merino, as soft as cashmere and as tough as camel, and is better for the environment than other fibers, where overgrazing due to the surplus of production is turning lush grasslands into desert.
- Unlike many textile products, Hangai keeps the entire manufacturing process in Mongolia from raw material to finished product, reducing the carbon footprint by limiting shipping.
For the Infantes, traceability, accountability and sustainability are critical values that define their brand, not just buzz words to throw around.
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