When I was in Hamburg last month, I also visited the queen of cashmere in her home, Iris von Arnim. She founded her brand in the middle of the 1970s and is still one of the most praised high-end brands in Germany; though she always kept the company small, working and residing in a beautiful townhouse in Eppendorf, just by the river Alster.
After arriving and having a little tour through the house, Valentin, Iris’ son and business partner, invited me to a short chat in their wild garden. We ended up talking about cashmere on every level, since this wool is still a high-maintenance luxury product, although discount pricing at common high-street chains might suggest otherwise. The cashmere goat only grows the coveted wool in high quality in very special conditions, that are only to be found in Mongolia. Nowadays there are many quality levels of cashmere, and many rather dubious methods to spin the thread in order to lower its price.
Iris von Arnim has always used only very high quality cashmere wool, that is combed instead of cut, finely spun into a thread, and elaborately colored (hence the pricing). But what I also didn’t know, which Valentin was happy to explain, is that you can wash high-quality cashmere and it actually gets better and better with each wash and wear.
Although the basic cuts and shapes of course account for the main share in sales, Iris von Arnim’s heart belongs to the collection pieces, like the extremely soft coats, short knit dresses and colorful ponchos.
I photographed Iris and Valentin in her loft, which has been build on top of the villa just some years ago and is filled with unique pieces that Iris collected through her life and on many of her travels.