Cashmere Road reaches 160 stores
The book I devoured over the weekend was “Kaşmir Yolu” (Cashmere Road).
The author of the book is Ayşen Zamanpur, the CEO and the creator of the brand Silk&Cashmere. She defines the book as her “first and last novel,” in which she describes the 20 year old story of Silk&Cashmere, which has become a world brand in cashmere and silk clothes.
On the cover of the book, Zamanpur poses with a completely white “Capra Hircus” goat, and the central character of Silk&Cashmere is this goat, which only lives in Inner Mongolia.
20 years ago, when Zamanpur went after this goat from Beijing to Inner Mongolia on an 18-hour train ride, she was already a successful businesswoman, managing her stores in five different spots in Istanbul, at which she was franchising Benetton.
In her own words, she knew “storekeeping, the concept of brand, the fashion world, how to sell and buy, and most importantly how to satisfy the customer.” Her Benetton experience thus played a huge role in her goal to become a brand in pure cashmere.
When Zamanpur headed for China in 1992, the country was just coming out of a closed system and was not yet open to foreign investors. I myself visited China in 1995 for the first time, and I can very well imagine how it would have been three years prior to that.
In the book, Zamanpur says: “Even the British Dawson Group that founded the global cashmere industry at the beginning of the 1990s and the Forte Cashmere that entered the market in the United States in the 1940s did not have any investments in China then. Even now I’m surprised at this. What courage we had!”
It is indeed courageous to invest in a country that is only just opening to the world, particularly if you think of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incidents and the effects of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 on the country.
After numerous trips Zamanpur made to China, she decided to hand over her Benetton stores and to form a partnership in Inner Mongolia with the Chinese.
In the book, she explained this process thus: “Our reason to be in China has never been for cheap labor. Ours is the most expensive textile product produced in China. There was no chance for us to produce cashmere and silk elsewhere, because the best quality could only be found in China.”
As she was planning, right from the beginning, for Silk&Cashmere to become a global brand, she opened a store in Zurich right after the first store in Turkey.
As of 2012, the number of Silk&Cashmere stores has reached over 160. It is possible to find the brand in countries such as France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, China, Australia, Spain, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Iran, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, and Russia. “I learned the names of some cities from the map when a franchising demand came from them,” Zamanpur says.
In the first months of 2012, the 20-year-old brand went through a landmark and sold 45 percent of its shares to the Eastgate Capital Group, based in Dubai.
Their aim is to grow the company threefold in five years and offer Silk&Cashmere products to customers at 450 sales points.