Lying between the vast expanses of Siberia and the Gobi Desert, Mongolia is one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries. Here, livestock outnumbers humans around 20 to one, including the animals behind one of Mongolia’s economic success stories: cashmere. Soft and lightweight, cashmere is one of the most luxurious fabrics money can buy. In a brand new 30-minute program, CNN’s Made in explores the journey of Mongolia’s cashmere industry.
CNN meets Mandkhai Jargalsaikhan, the founder and creative director of the knitwear label “Mandkhai,” who takes pride in sourcing the finest cashmere directly from Mongolia. Mandkhai’s brand is no stranger to the spotlight, with celebrities like Hailey Bieber and Gigi Hadid sporting her pieces. The designer, however, is more interested in highlighting the people who make and inspire the clothes, such as the nomadic herders who supply cashmere fibers. With the cashmere sourcing season well underway, she sets out to visit a supplier in Mongolia’s countryside. Bayarduuren Zunduikhuu has lived in this part of Mongolia for a decade. She moves home each season, looking for land where her herd of 500 animals can graze, including the goats she relies on for the cashmere harvest. But extreme weather and declining ecosystems are threatening Bayarduuren’s livelihood, the welfare of animals, and the future of this vital community in Mongolia.
The journey continues to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, where “Gobi Cashmere” says it runs the largest cashmere store in the world. With decades of domestic cashmere production and distribution under its belt, the brand keeps a focus on accessible yet high-quality cashmere products, entirely made in-house in Mongolia. However, increasing a cashmere product’s quality while keeping costs down can be a challenge. The brand is investing in improving their cashmere supply and reducing distribution costs.
To get a global perspective on Mongolia’s cashmere output, CNN travels to London to meet Oyuna Tserendorj, a designer showcasing Mongolian cashmere to the world. Oyuna is passionate about connecting her customers with Mongolia and travels to Mongolia every year visit herders across the country. Oyuna has carved out a niche in the global luxury market, with her futuristic yet traditional products stocked in department stores around the world, from Harrods in London to Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.
Finally, back in Mongolia, among the Khentii Mountains CNN meets Ganbold Sosorbaram, who has watched over a herd his entire life, just like his ancestors before him. However, how Ganbold makes a living off his herd is changing. Alongside collecting cashmere from goats, Sosorbaram now collects yak wool as well. He supplies a growing number of companies betting that yak could be the next big thing, because it is warmer and rarer than cashmere. Knitwear-maker Bodios pivoted to selling yak wool to stand out in an already crowded cashmere market. The company believes that this market will only grow as consumers become more aware of the environmental challenges that can come with cashmere.