Byline: Alice Welsh

NEW YORK — The increase in cashmere yarn prices is forcing knitwear companies to raise their prices typically from 10 to 25 percent for fall, depending on the style. In some cases, the price hikes are going even higher.
Belford Knits said it is limiting the increase to 15 to 20 percent for basics. “We are holding it as low as we can. We are working with a lower margin,” said Herb Cohen, sales manager. “We had to raise our prices to survive.” With fashion pieces, the price is not as important because the customer will pay for the excitement, said Cohen.
“Prices will be up 10 to 25 percent depending on the style,” said Jan Mehalick, president of Ballantyne Cashmere. “We will be absorbing some of the [higher] costs.” A basic style that wholesaled for $125 in 1994 will be about $140 in 1995, according to Mehalick.
She reasoned that the price increases may take some of the lower-end merchandise out of the market. “I guarantee that some of the cachet will come back to cashmere with the higher prices.”
“We are trying to keep lean on the price increase for basics — at around 10 percent,” said Randy Roy, president of William Kasper Cashmere. “Basics are often used as layering pieces with other fashion styles, so if they are too high, the whole outfit becomes too costly.”
Fashion pieces will go up as much as 20 percent, said Roy.
“When the prices went so low, there were problems with contamination because the farmers couldn’t supply 100 percent cashmere and they started mixing it with other yarns. That gave Chinese cashmere a bad name.
“I think they raised prices to bring the fiber back to being more exclusive and to improve their reputation,” said Roy.
At Fenncco Cashmere, the wholesale price of a basic crewneck has gone up 50 percent from $50 in 1994 to $75 for 1995, according to Michael Glaubman, vice president of sales.
“Retailers are cutting back the units on their cashmere programs, and more stores are seeking blends like silk and cashmere,” said Glaubman.