How We Began
June Cashmere's 100% cashmere fiber is collected directly from Kyrgyz shepherds living on small family farms along the ancient Silk Road amidst the soaring mountains of Central Asia. June is the Kyrgyz word for animal fiber, which is a centuries-old vital resource and essential element of the nomadic lifestyle. From felted woolen rugs, to the clothes on their backs, june has made itself an indelible part of Kyrgyz culture.
The origins of June Cashmere started with the seed vision of J.C. Christensen and his family, owners of Morning Star Fiber, located in Andrews, North Carolina. Not long after opening their mill, they had the opportunity to meet a group of Kyrgyz artisans who were traveling in the US. Through this encounter, they became aware of the need for revitalization of the Kyrgyz fiber industry to help build the country's economy. Shortly thereafter, Christensen connected with Sy Belohlavek from Columbus, Ohio, who had worked in Kyrgyzstan previously. Sy was drawn to economic development work and ultimately moved with his wife and two small children (they now have five) to Kyrgyzstan in late 2010 to begin working.
The initial idea was to establish small mills like Morning Star throughout Kyrgyzstan. Sy spent a period of time learning the Kyrgyz language, doing general research, and establishing relationships with community leaders. When the mill pursuit didn't come to fruition, Sy changed his focus specifically on cashmere, turning to research conducted by cashmere experts Carol Kerven and Sabyr Toigonbaev. Programs to inform shepherds about how to properly collect and sort their fiber by quality grades have led to a tiered payment system in which June Cashmere pays shepherds fair market value and more for their cashmere fiber. The years of diligent investment among these communities have resulted in access to high-quality raw cashmere. Sy and his team travel village-to-village and house-to-house purchasing cashmere that the shepherds have gently hand-combed from each goat. These personal transactions ensure that top quality fiber is being gathered and that the shepherds receive fair compensation for their elite fiber.
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Half-way between the East and the West along the legendary Silk Road lies a land of majestic mountains and nomadic shepherd communities--Kyrgyzstan. Daily life in this remote and relatively untouched region of the world is not for the faint of heart. In brilliant adaptation to winter above 10,000 feet, the indigenous cashmere goats have developed their soft, exceptionally warm and silky downy undercoat, otherwise known as cashmere--soft gold.
Although these goats have long produced fiber capable of competing on the world market, until recently Kyrgyz shepherds had virtually no access to international buyers offering fair market value. June Cashmere is committed to changing this situation so that their cashmere has an honored identity as one of the world’s finest fibers. Our passion is that Kyrgyz cashmere can be an engine for social and economic transformation.