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ZUG – Premium cashmere brand, FTC Cashmere, is working with DNA traceable technology specialist Haelixa to provide full traceability and transparency along its cashmere value chains. Haelixa, a spin-off of the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), has developed innovative technology which uses DNA to mark and trace products. The marker is based on DNA that is produced synthetically, with each marketer using a unique and traceable fingerprint for a brand, a collection, or production unit.

There is a growing interest in fully traceable natural fibres products from brands. High value fibres like cashmere offer an obvious testing ground for the commercial viability of the technology.

Moreover, the cashmere industry has been under the spotlight generally in recent years over accusations of over-grazing leading to desertification in Mongolia, where much of the world’s cashmere is farmed. Several brands have dropped cashmere from their lines, claiming – perhaps disingenuously – they will only re-enter the market when the integrity of the cashmere they source can be guaranteed.

Although FTC Cashmere is 100 per cent vertically integrated, Haelixa, provides additional physical proof of origin for the cashmere used, the goal being to give retailers and end consumers the necessary certainty regarding the origin of the material used. “The information about the raw material used remains inseparably linked to product throughout the entire value chain,” said a company statement. “All cashmere raw material that comes from the company’s own cashmere goat farms, used in FTC Cashmere products, is now marked with the Haelixa marker produced especially for FTC Cashmere.”

Starting Spring/Summer 2021, the first products made from this marked raw material will be available in stores and will be labelled with the ingredient label ‘Marked & Traced by Haelixa.’

The Haelixa marker is based on DNA. It is dissolved in water and applied directly to the raw material. The DNA marker does not affect the product properties and the cashmere maintains its high quality. The marker is robust to withstand the different steps of industrial processing, such as spinning, dyeing, washing, etc. At the same time, it is harmless to humans and the environment, GMO-free and recognized by GOTS and OEKO-TEX® 100.

Earlier this year, a new standard was launched for cashmere which covers the welfare of cashmere goats as well as addressing environmental and social issues in cashmere production. The standard will initially work with 2,000 farmers in Inner Mongolia, northern China, where cashmere goats are kept by settled farmers rather than roaming broad pastures with nomadic herders.

The Good Cashmere Standard has been set up by the Aid by Trade Foundation, with the support of partners including Bestseller, Lacoste, Hugo Boss and H&M. The latter of these announced earlier in 2019 that it planned to phase out the use of ‘conventional’ cashmere due to environmental concerns.

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