Edinburgh Woollen Mill has strongly refuted claims some of the products it labels as 100% cashmere are actually blended with cheaper materials such as sheep’s or yak’s wool.
Dumfries and Galloway Trading Standards Team has brought a case against the Scottish high street retailer under the Textile Products (Labelling and Fibre Composition) Regulations Act 2012. It is due to be heard in the Sheriff Court in Dumfries on February 26 and 29.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which is based in Langholm, Dumfriesshire, and has 265 stores across the UK, said: “We strongly refute these claims and will continue to vigorously defend them.
“The Edinburgh Woollen Mill prides itself on the quality and value of its products and has stringent policies in place with all company suppliers to guarantee quality and authenticity.
“We are able to offer our customers luxury 100% cashmere products at attractive and affordable prices due to the investments made in our supply chain and because we source large quantities from reputable suppliers. We are proud to be able to pass these benefits on to our end customers.”
The retailer said its cashmere products were subject to “robust independent testing” by experts.
“Furthermore we conduct regular supplier audits designed to ensure the highest standards of product authenticity throughout our business.”
In a separate action in December 2014, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated a claim by the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCMI) that an advert for one of Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s 100% Mongolian cashmere scarves was misleading.
The CCMI said it had tested the product and discovered it contained “substantial yak fibre content”.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill countered the claims, providing test results from a laboratory in Mongolia and from one in the UK that showed the scarves were 100% cashmere.
The ASA said: “We therefore considered that at the time the ad appeared Edinburgh Woollen Mill held sufficiently robust evidence to demonstrate that the product was 100% cashmere.”
Malcolm Campbell, managing director of luxury brand the Cloth of Kings, based in Fife, who has worked with cashmere throughout his 45-year career, said he thought it highly unlikely Edinburgh Woollen Mill - where he worked in the 1980s - had deliberately mislabelled its products.
But he pointed out that, in the wider industry, many people do blend their cashmere with cheaper fabrics.
“There are not enough cashmere goats in the world to create the amount of cashmere product on sale,” he said. “In China they can take wool, stretch it and drop it by two microns, then blend it with cashmere. The only way you can tell it’s not 100% cashmere is to look at the cross section under a microscope – that would be difficult to do, and difficult to stand up in court.”
Pre-tax profits at Edinburgh Woollen Mill group, which also owns Peacocks, rose 28% to £91.2m in the year to March 2015.