MANUFACTURE & ADDED VALUE
In order to guarantee the best quality, FTC® monitors the extraction of the raw material by its own employees. The extraction takes place in Shaanxi province. Not only do the breeding of Cashmere goats and the production of raw materials provide the economic basis for a large part of the population, but they also allow the inhabitants to continue living their centuries-old culture that is connected to nature. It is therefore only reasonable to process cashmere where this noble raw material originates.
Cashmere is a matter of trust. Today, FTC® is not only a cashmere brand, but also a cultural project with sustainable structures from correct breeding and husbandry to the final end product. FTC® is therefore very proud of all those involved in this project and the respect they have for each other. From farmer to customer, FTC® lives fair trade. Long-standing business partnerships play an important role in ensuring the consistently high quality of the products, as does constant monitoring of the standards of the goods.
FEELING THE SENSE
WITH FAIR TRADE CASHMERE
FTC stands for Fair Trade Cashmere. Sustainably produced articles with a fair chain throughout. Fair Trade has been part of FTC®'s corporate DNA since the company was founded in 2003. The entire supply chain is owned by the family business. From its own cashmere goat farms in northern Shaanxi (China) to the production of its knitwear, the company adheres to the highest ethical standards.
Up to 400 employees are currently involved in the production process at FTC®. Their well-being and a healthy diet are taken care of in the in-house canteen, where they cook almost exclusively with ingredients from their own cultivation. All partners and workers in China have been hired by FTC Cashmere and thus benefit from fair remuneration, a high level of job security and above-average employment conditions. Constant contact and exchange with the partners in China ensure a high level of trust and a pleasant working atmosphere.
Step by step from the goat to the finished product:
1. Obtaining the raw material
Excellent cashmere quality starts with the choice of goat. That is why FTC® only uses raw materials from animals that come from its own goat breeding. The company's own cashmere goat farm in Shaanxi and the Farmer Protection Programme ensure the consistent top quality of the animals bred, as well as the appropriate and careful husbandry of the goats. Furthermore, the farmers are offered an adequate, secure and long-term income opportunity. They work with a code of conduct and also with strict rules about the animals must be treated. The animals get a medical checkup every two weeks to make sure they are well and healthy.
Once a year, during the change from winter to summer coat, the raw material is extracted from the goats by combing carefully by hand. This is then refined again in the combing room by being combed, smoothed and sorted up to eleven times by rotating brushes. Every day, about 850 kilogrammes of wool are processed, leaving only about 400 kilogrammes of the original raw material as fine cashmere. To produce a classic jumper, the material from one to two animals is needed.
Currently, FTC Cashmere processes about 300 tonnes of raw material per year, of which only 50 tonnes of the best category are processed for FTC® products. The rest of the raw material is sold on.
The raw material is sorted by hand according to colour, quality and region of origin. The fibres are then washed. This removes dirt and vegetable substances. Then the fibres are put into the carding machine. Then water and wax are added to soften them.
The aim of carding is to lay all the fibres on a pattern grid in the same direction. Fibres that are too short are thus eliminated and combed separately. The remaining fine cashmere is again sorted into different quality grades and then either spun into yarn or sold as raw material. FTC® uses only the best raw material for its products.
The natural shades of cashmere wool are brown and white, and in rare cases light reds. For dyeing light shades, only the white fibres are used to achieve brilliant colours, thus the original colour of the goatskin has an influence on the price of the cashmere.
The fibres can be dyed as raw material (top dye), yarn (yarn dye) or as a finished product (piece dye). FTC® dyes the final raw material mainly as fluff in the top dye process in the company's own dye works. Although this process is more time-consuming, the colours are more brilliant and vibrant and the softness of the cashmere is better preserved. For gentle and guaranteed pollutant-free dyeing, FTC® uses only selected dyes from renowned companies in Germany and Switzerland. Thanks to a modern water treatment plant, the footprint of the dyeing process can be kept as low as possible.
In addition, FTC® offers some articles made of Natural Yarn. For these products, the cashmere raw material was neither dyed nor bleached, so that the natural original colour of the cashmere is completely preserved.
For normal knitwear, mainly carded yarns (combed yarns) are used and for very fine products and fabrics mainly worsted yarns. The softly formed fibre network is cut into strips and twisted on a spinning machine into a "single" yarn. Normally, two "single" twisted yarns are twisted together to form a two-thread yarn and then further processed. Since in this case it is a two-ply yarn, the yarn is more stable and of higher quality than a single twisted yarn. Multi-twisted cashmere yarns are created by using several two-twisted yarns, which results in a higher weight as well as a higher price (due to the higher weight).
It is often suggested that multi-threaded cashmere yarns are of higher quality. However, the quality of the original fibre, the processing and the weight of the final product are decisive for the price and the high quality. In the subsequent process, knitting, the fineness of the yarn determines on which machine the respective model is to be knitted.
Knitted fabrics are textiles that are made by forming stitches (thread interlacing). Compared to woven fabric (thread interlacing), a knitted fabric has a higher elasticity and adapts better to the body.
The FTC® styles are made exclusively on the most modern knitting machines from Germany in our own production facilities in China. Further processing is done by hand with great care. This allows FTC® to offer a wide range of individual styles.
Even though handwork is often preferred, machines work more precisely and regularly - for single-colour pieces that do not have a complex design. Handwork, on the other hand, guarantees the highest quality of workmanship when patterns or unusual shapes are involved. FTC®'s production facilities offer both processing options with sufficient capacity to produce each piece using the best manufacturing method.
6. Washing & Steaming
Washing is one of the most important steps in the manufacturing process and the method is often kept a secret by companies. To avoid damaging the material, it is washed in soft water with a special liquid detergent at strictly controlled temperatures. Depending on the colour and model, the washing times differ and so does the final feel of the fabric. Washing is an important point in the entire production process and requires a lot of experience on the part of the employees.
In the next step, the washed garment is dried in dryers, giving it the desired bulking effect. After drying, the garment is carefully placed on wooden boards and ironed with steam at about 60°C. The garment is then ironed on the wooden board. A wooden frame with sanded edges is made for each model in each size. Working with wooden frames is much gentler than working with metal frames, as the knitted fabric is not damaged.
7. Packaging products
Commitment to sustainability has been an important issue for FTC® since the company was founded. In order to keep its ecological footprint a little smaller, FTC® switched its product packaging to recyclable paper bags. Bags made of strong, unbleached, FSC-certified kraft paper replace the polybags previously used with the aim of reducing plastic consumption, minimising waste and making the packaging more environmentally friendly. The packaging is used in different sizes to ensure that it fits the product as well as possible and thus also creates less waste.
All FTC® collections are the responsibility of the design team around Jana and Jutta Knezovic, who create several collections a year. In addition to the cashmere collection, which includes women's and men's pieces as well as home accessories such as plaids and cushions, the team is also responsible for the further development of the globally unique SeaCell™ cashmere line.
The design team always keeps an eye on the market and its target group and can react quickly to short-term developments thanks to short production times. Fashion trends are interpreted and translated into styles typical of FTC®. These are characterised by current trends and colours, proven fits and attention to detail. These include new knitting patterns, fashionable shapes, combinations with silk, leather or other high-quality and carefully selected materials.