Ready To Wear: When it comes to luxury wool, fashion has upped the ante

By Susannah Frankel
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:12

It should come as no great surprise that just as cashmere – once a highly elitist (read prohibitively expensive) yarn – becomes accessible to the many as opposed to the privileged few, fashion ups the ante.

This is not an industry famed for its lengthy attention span. And so while Uniqlo, Gap, M&S et al now pride themselves on stocking ultra-soft and light-as-a-feather cashmere sweaters at knockdown prices, the high end of the market is moving forward.

At Prada, cashgora is the order of the day. New Look line dresses, in camel or black with a sweet ruffle (below), come in this luxe and hard-to-identify mix which The Independent's fashion team took some time investigating. Is it felted wool? Too soft. Felted cashmere? Lighter even than that. And then we, er, read the label. It's a cashmere and angora mix, then – which is a great invention because it has all of the delicacy of angora with none of the fibre-shedding mess.

Less expensive mohair and mohair mixes – big last winter – are enjoying an extended moment: Etoile Isabel Marant's cream and black striped sweater is Dennis The Menace meets Edie Sedgwick and what could be better than that? Miu Miu's fisherman-knit mohair cardigan is double-breasted to exaggerated granddad effect. Fisherman rib, incidentally, whatever the wool, is everywhere, from Stella McCartney to Yohji Yamamoto. My favourite is an oversized navy all-in-one which evokes the effect of the world's best-dressed Teletubby. In a good way.

Ultra-warm alpaca too is high on the agenda. For those who find wearing a tailored coat an overly bourgeois proposition an oversized alpaca cardigan will keep out the cold in relaxed fashion. Rick Owens corners the market here, and all imitations pale into insignificance.

When it comes to the award for the most obscurely fashionable wool of the season, however, look no further than Bamford, purveyor of still prohibitively expensive cashmere but also of an oversized, anthracite cardie in nothing more obvious than yak hair.

These magnificent beasts are usually combed in spring and any fibre is used mainly for hair extensions over and above clothing. But don't let that put you off.

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