For centuries, cashmere has been considered a noble material. When Thierry Gillier adopted it in the 1990s, the cashmere jumper was a desperately sensible style. Very old school, it represented unshakeable conformism. For the founder of Zadig&Voltaire, it was time to transcend this material and dust off its image.
In 1997, Thierry Gillier founded Zadig&Voltaire. He wanted to revolutionise luxury goods by sharing his casual, rebellious vision of fashion. The style he was about to create was characterised by the use of cashmere, which would be decisive for the brand in the future. He dreamed of popularising the material, making it both cool and sexy. Accompanying women every day by coming up with new ways to wear it. He saw its softness as key but he needed to reinvent it; out with the round neckline and ultra figure-hugging knit, he wanted to get rid of the bourgeois look cashmere couldn’t seem to shake! He had plans for a much more rock ‘n’ roll cashmere jumper.
The brand spent years working on building a new identity for cashmere. In between our Parisian studio’s ideas and creation in the workshops drawing on dedicated know-how, endless prototypes were produced and fittings took place to make this unique cashmere. Feather cashmere would be the brand’s first innovation. Its gauge, i.e. measurement of its density, was adapted to ensure incomparable lightness. Cashmere is no longer worn as a practical jumper, but rather with nothing underneath as a sensual, insolent fashion statement in its own right. The nobility of the fabric gained visibility and it became a key piece; every wardrobe needs a casual-chic cashmere piece. Slip your hand under the fine, lightweight knit and you’ll see that it lets the light through.
After Cecilia Bönström’s arrival, she continued to work on cashmere with new-found enthusiasm. We created it in a rainbow of colours, played with the level of distressing that seems to tell a story, even when the product is new. We made the knit even looser so that it would show off a little skin underneath. The intarsia technique allowed coloured threads to be added during the weaving process, creating a stylised camouflage effect. The same technique allowed us to add the slogans “ART IS TRUTH”, “JE M’EN FOUS” or “L’AMOUR EST DECLARE”. Runway styles, often spectacular, can be embellished with diamanté, hand-embroidered, in higher or lower gauges, whether jumpers, ponchos or long coats. The sleeves were made systematically longer to sit longer than the jacket and coat sleeves. Thicker cashmere jumpers like Marcus, Alma or Malta became brand must-haves. In the heart of what Cecilia Bönström calls the “laboratory”, the studio turned cashmere into more than a luxury product, a forward-looking product.
The cashmere goat was named after the mountainous country in the Indian sub-continent where its weave was developed industrially in the 15th century. However, the goats actually mainly lived in Inner Mongolia and the Himalayan highlands of Ladakh and Tibet. They flourish in this extreme climate and fragile ecosystem where it is -40°C in winter. When the animals moult in spring, naturally losing their winter coat, farmers comb their secondary down which grows under the permanent hairs. The fibre is six times finer than a hair but is extremely hardwearing. The price of cashmere varies from year to year depending on the quantity and quality of the material, which in turn is dependent on the climate. The goats which produce the cashmere used by Zadig&Voltaire are reared in Inner Mongolia, in ideal climatic conditions, which guarantees the incomparable quality of the fibres used for the Zadig&Voltaire collections.
Aware of the environmental and societal issues, Zadig&Voltaire formalised its commitments under the VoltAIRe Programme in September 2021. As cashmere is one of the brand’s key materials, it chose to become a Good Cashmere Standard member. This initiative strives to develop a sustainable cashmere network through a standard guaranteeing the welfare of the goats, the protection of natural resources and the traceability of the material, while supporting the local communities of farmers who produce it.
All of the cashmere knits now developed for the Zadig&Voltaire collections are certified by the Good Cashmere Standard, allowing the brand to propose products which reflect its ethical vision of luxury.