Tengri, a new high-end fashion label using yak's wool, has released its first range of ethical woolens. The name Tengri means pantheon of gods in Mongolian. The brand aims to shake the dominance of cashmere clothing with its alternative soft fabric. Founded by Nancy Johnson, a former charity worker, in March this year, Tengri seeks to highlight the plight of Mongolian yak herders, many of whom can no longer make a living from their traditional, nomadic lifestyle.
Mongolian wool is spun from fleece-bearing animals that live in the geography loosely called Mongolia. Mostly, the fleece is grown on sheep. Johnson is hoping to transform the lives of 1,000 Mongolian families that are currently supplying their yak wool to her social start-up.
Mongolia is the largest exporter of cashmere in the world. Mongolian nomads used to earn most of their income raising goats which produce the soft fibers that are used to make the high-end cashmere sweaters, scarves and coats. Yet they were forced to sell or slaughter their goats because the demand for luxury goods plummeted during the financial crisis.
The price of cashmere dropped drastically, leading to overgrazing and over herding of the goats to meet demand. Shearing is also impossible as there is almost no electricity on the steppe.