Sunday, March 28, 2010
One of the key theories involved in saving endangered species is to figure out how to make them "economically necessary" to save. Since the musk ox makes hair that is of even higher quality than any cashmere, some researchers have taken it upon themselves to figure out how to collect the hair, produce goods from it and then market it to the public. One of those is The Musk Ox Farm where musk ox are bred and their hair is humanely collected for use by native Alaskans. The hair is either combed off of the oxen or collected off of the ground when it is shed. No musk oxen are harmed in the process. Once the hair is collected, it is distributed to people in the Oomingmak Cooperative where they spin the hair into yarn and then knit it into products. After that, the goods are collected by the Cooperative and then sold.
Qiviut has proven to be ounce for ounce the most expensive wool on the planet. That isn't due to some sort of marketing gimmick--it is because it is the highest-quality wool on the planet as far as hair diameter, warmth-retention and shrink-resistance. Due to the Endangered status of the animals, not very much of the hair is collected for commercial purposes each year, so due to the supply being so small and the demand so great, the price is rather steep. But, as the saying goes, "you get what you pay for."
As a result, one of the only places to buy Qiviut products is from The Oomingmak Cooperative Store. What makes shopping from them so cool is that their goods are made by Native Alaskan artisans, so their prints are traditional ones that can't be found anywhere else. Not only are they producing stylish, unique items but it also allows families who chose to maintain their traditional lifestyle to do so. Knitting qiviut is a traditional craft and the Cooperative helps make this traditional art economically important enough to keep it going, which in this modern age is something that is socially and culturally essential. The patterns that they use might be otherwise forever lost to the world if the Cooperative hadn't been established. One of my favorite patterns is on a scarf--it is a very old pattern that has been found on hunting spears. Its pretty and I like it.
I always hear people complain that fashion is shallow. No, it isn't. Buy a scarf and help save an endangered species and an endangered way of life.
Top picture from Jungle Noises, Bottom Picture from Oomingmak Cooperative
For my post about mohair, click HERE