Mohair is the new cashmere

This luxurious Karoo fibre is not only great for making gorgeous soft furnishings, but for the environment and the economy, too

25 June 2017 - 00:00 By Roberta Thatcher

From local homes to international catwalks runs a proudly South African thread that's as sustainable as it is luxurious.
Mohair, or the fleece of the Angora goat, has so many fine qualities it's been dubbed "the noble thread", "the new cashmere" and "the diamond fibre", and when it comes to its production, we can lay claim to being the global leader in both quality and quantity.
A rather sweet legend takes our history with mohair back to 1838, when the Sultan of Turkey apparently sent 12 infertile Angora rams and one ewe to South Africa. Turkey was very protective of its mohair production at the time, and went so far as to keep their goats forbidden from export, but what the Sultan didn't realise was that the ewe he sent was pregnant. So it was that she and the ram she bore became our founding breeding stock.
Whether it was via the Sultan of Turkey or the imports of commercially savvy farmers, in the 1800s Angora goats found their way to the Karoo, a region whose harsh conditions are ideal for the species. Two centuries of genetic refinement and research, as well as strong collaboration and organisation in the SA mohair industry, have seen the quality of our fibre finely honed and the industry thrive.
Not many people are as closely involved with Angora goats as Denys Hobson, of the Mohair Mill Shop, which sells the largest range of mohair products in the world. "I farm Angoras with my son-in-law Neil and my daughter Karen. I also manage the commercial mohair manufacture and retail operation, Cape Mohair, so we live and breathe mohair, from the raw fibre to the end product."
For Hobson, mohair is more than just a luxury product, it is a fibre with a low environmental impact and a high economic one. "Angora goats eat 40% less than sheep, which is why they thrive in the dry Karoo region, surviving on small shrubs, grasses and succulents."Angora goats are shorn twice a year, every six months, resulting in more fibre per feed. Plus, mohair is soil resistant due to its water-repellant waxy outer layer, which means it requires less washing and less water.
"And perhaps most importantly," says Hobson, "mohair farming is labour intensive. It cannot be farmed without human involvement, from the reproduction and maintenance of the animal to the shearing, thus the industry preserves many rural jobs."
A versatile fibre, mohair is coveted by interior and fashion designers around the world and is woven into blankets, cardigans, scarves, socks and many other homeware and fashion accessories. Soft to the touch and kind to the country, this ethically produced fibre should hold pride of place in any home.
6 reasons to love mohair1) Silky sheen: the fibre's natural lustre gives it an elegant appeal.
2) Thermal insulation: the breathable fabric keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter.
3) Dye-responsive: mohair absorbs and retains its colours.
4) Durable: rated as one of the world's most durable fibres due to its tensile strength.
5) Crease resistant: it has an innate elasticity which prevents creasing.
6) Flame retardant: mohair is virtually non-flammable, making it safe for your home.

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