Cashmere—The Kyrgyz Honor
Sy Belohlavek, director of June Cashmere, explains how honor frames the vision and structure of an enterprise in Kyrgyzstan.
Recognition is the acknowledgement of someone’s existence and validity. This honor is acclaim for an achievement or ability. There is a kind of internal frustration when one intuitively senses they have something worthy of recognition, but do not experience public affirmation because their worth goes unnoticed. Over time this can lead to a sense of shame generated by the absence of respect.
The Kyrgyz people have been living as nomadic shepherds in the isolated mountains of Central Asia for centuries. This harsh environment projects grandeur and majesty, and it produces some of the finest cashmere (i.e., the downy undercoat of goats) in the world.
Until recently Kyrgyz cashmere was unknown and unappreciated. The international market forced rural farmers to sell their elite fiber at discounted prices to Chinese traders. This scenario created an opportunity to perfect and magnify the God-given honorable element of Kyrgyz life.
June Cashmere is a commercial enterprise that produces and sells cashmere knitting yarn, but the enterprise is motivated by, and predicated upon, a distinct awareness of the disparity between (1) the actual value of Kyrgyz individuals, communities, and culture and (2) the recognition accorded by the broader world based on its values. June Cashmere, in a concrete albeit small way, realigns notions of honor to promote flourishing.
Through direct personal relationships and business interactions in rural Kyrgyzstan, we’ve seen their pride in their nomadic lifestyle and simply “being Kyrgyz.” The products and marketing of June Cashmere emphasize these noble features for the broader world.
June Cashmere works directly with shepherd families and village co-ops so locals receive 30-35% higher prices. The quality of their cashmere has also opened doors among elite European mills and high fashion companies. In addition to increased income, many Kyrgyz have enjoyed a renewed sense of healthy pride in their identity because their natural resource is becoming internationally recognized (and even featured by high-end boutiques in New York City).
The mission is to “raise global recognition of Kyrgyzstan’s rural communities, industrious shepherds, and the world class animal fiber they produce.” We want the world to recognize this supremely honorable aspect of Kyrgyz culture. Scripture says that we will bring “the honor and glory of all ethnicities” into heaven (Rev. 21:26). Perhaps Kyrgyz believers will be wearing cashmere—their symbol of honor—into heaven.
The first collection of high quality, 100% Kyrgyz cashmere yarn is now available at www.JuneCashmere.com.
Since I have been addressing some of my past and current shame issues, this hit me hard this morning. Shame may rear its ugly head when we feel a lack of respect or when we feel that others do not recognize (and appreciate?) our giftedness and efforts. I do affirm that we serve before an audience of one and pleasing Him must be our first (and only?) priority. So, what do I do when I feel shame related to a lack of respect or a lack of recognition/appreciation? I remember to whom I belong and what He declares about me–that I am His beloved. And I wait in that, allowing Him to fill up my deficits.
But I also actively seek out ways to show respect, recognition and appreciation of others. I guess that is why I enjoy my current role that enables me to do that with our missionaries.
Great points, David. Thanks for sharing! One reason I like this post is because it is a good example of what it means to confer honor to other people, especially in a way that makes sense to them.
So glad to hear this story, especially as the author and I met together several years ago. I’m thrilled to see his work and to read about it in this blog. Well done, Sy!