Two models from Gobi Cashmere
Gobi Cashmere brings Mongolian nomadic herders into the spotlights

Gobi’s fall / winter marketing campaign is as impressive as unusual. After using models standing in professional studios or beautiful landscapes, the company changed direction to reach the roots of their product supply: The nomadic herders. To put this marketing campaign into context, we need to roll back in time. Come back to the origin of Mongolian cashmere…

What is cashmere?

The cashmere fibers comes from the thinnest hair you can find on a goat. An additional layer naturally created by the goats as a protection against harsh winters. Each year, an incredibly thin and soft layer of about 12 microns grows beneath the normal hair to double the animal’s coat. When spring comes, the herders comb their animal to remove these hairs from the normal fur. While this practice has been performed in South Asia since the fifteen century, it began in Mongolia much more recently.

The origin of Mongolian cashmere

According to Professor Shombodon, recognized for his knowledge in the livestock sector, the history starts between 8000 and 15000 years ago. At that time the goats were still wild but on their way to becoming domesticated. Mongolians raised goats for their milk, their meat, and their skin to make leather. But their hair was barely used. Later on, the hairs were mixed roughly with sheep hairs to make felt or clothes for winter. From late 30ies Mongolia established the first experimental cashmere processing factory. The precious fibers had never been considered as they are now. It was only from that time that herders started to comb their goats.  From this, the Mongolian cashmere was born.

Model holding goat

The rise of Cashmere’s interest

Cashmere production accelerated in the years before World War II. The demand for warm clothes increased considerably, causing production to rise 800% between 1940 and 1945. After this difficult period, the interest in cashmere increased but processing methods were still rudimentary. In 1981, Mongolia gained the ability to process the fiber on a professional level with its first professional grade cashmere processing factory. Considerable technical innovations were put in place to create better fabrics and improve combing methods. Efforts were also made in breeding to obtain a goat in line with factory requirements.

The privatization of the Mongolian economy caused explosive growth in the cashmere sector in the nineties. The number of goats in Mongolia doubled from 5.5 million in 1992 to 11 million in 1999. By 2020, 30 million heads of goats were counted in the country. The increase in the goat population has led to extensive overgrazing and desertification, a problem amplified by the effects of the climate crisis. After its privatization in 2007, Gobi was extensively restructured and environmental sustainability has increasingly become part of its mission.

Gobi cashmere model female

Gobi lends cachet to the herders

In recent years Gobi has sought to redefine and revitalize what it means for a company to be “Made in Mongolia.” This time, Gobi wanted to celebrate the hard work of the herders at the origin of the company’s success. The entire marketing team led by Batmunkh Tsendjav discussed deeply with make-up artists and photographer on how they could genuinely portray the life of the herders and their facial characteristics. Red cheeks, freckles, hair in braids and traditional jewelry had to be represented.

To do so, the entire marketing team split into smaller groups and hit the road to the countryside. Yurt after yurt, the teams greeted herders and looked for a family that was the perfect fit of the fall / winter’s Gobi collection for 2020.

It was important to find a family that was herding goats. After some research in the Tuv province located 200 km from Ulaanbaatar, a family was selected to be the next group of models. They were very excited about the idea and looked forward to being a part of it.

Nomadic family posing for Gobi Cashmere

Experiencing the nomadic lifestyle

A few days after selecting the family, quite a fuss happened in the green steppe. A whole team of photographers, video makers, designers, stylists, make-up artists, and marketers returned to the family to put them in the spotlight along with experienced models.

Eleven people in total spent 2 days on site. All sleeping in a single yurt along with the family. Each morning the team woke up around 4 or 5am and did photo shoots until mid-day. They would take a rest in the afternoon and shoot again during the evening. The night was a time to relax—eating, talking, and at one point dancing with the family in front of their cars’ headlights.

The talented Mongolian photographer Yondon Chantsaldulam, known as Chayodu, were responsible for the shooting. Her passion for documentary photography and her closeness to the nomadic approach would easily reflect the essence of such lifestyle. For her, the experience was a reminder of her childhood and a unique bonding moment.

Herder for Gobi Cashmere

She had done photoshoots with professional models in the past, but this shoot was special: there was no need to act fake. The family members looked beautiful just the way they were. They were real—their faces burnt from years of sun exposure, wrinkles on their hands from hard work. Their welcoming attitude and pure heart—that’s one of the most beautiful characteristics of Mongolia.

Nowadays, 65 percent of our clothes are made of artificial fibers. It is time to promote the work of those who live simply to produce natural fibers.

Nomadic People as Models

Author: Adrien de Ville

Review: Gregory Greif

Interviews: Batmunkh Tsendjav, Chayodu, Shombodon Dorlig

Assistant interview: Shijir Batchuluun

Special thanks to: Undram from Gobi International