A LOVE LETTER TO THE LAND
We speak with Oyuna Tserendorj, the founder of OYUNA, about weaving a more sustainable future for cashmere.
P U R S U I T S
Your work celebrates Mongolia. Tell us about what the country means to you.
I was born and raised in Mongolia. My mother and my sisters and their families live in Mongolia. My father was a nomad in eastern Mongolia and later became our country’s secretary of state. I now live in London and my work is the thread that keeps me connected to home.
With its wide, open spaces, Mongolia means freedom and nature to me. Drive half an hour from the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and you’re immersed in unspoilt wilderness. Nomads have lived here in harmony with nature for centuries, a reminder of the synergy that's possible between people and the land.
How did OYUNA come about?
I studied fashion engineering in Budapest and later moved to London where I set up my brand, specializing in designed cashmere. OYUNA aims to chart a sustainable path of development using Mongolia’s unique heritage in cashmere production. In a small way, I feel that I am an ambassador for my country.
Why is responsible cashmere production so important?
In the 13th century, Marco Polo discovered cave paintings in Mongolia’s Altai mountains, paintings that showed nomads combing and collecting hair from domesticated goats. Things have changed since then! Today’s insatiable demand for cheap cashmere puts pressure on nomadic production methods and care of the land. Overproduction and overgrazing of cashmere goats in non-endemic areas of Mongolia leads to land degradation. Coupled with global climate change, it risks damaging the land and therefore threatens Mongolia's unique nomadic culture.
Cashmere is a precious fiber and should always be made at the purest and highest quality. This can be achieved when we respect the cultural heritage around its production, protecting herding communities and the land. We need to avoid turning it into a mass-market commodity.
How do you do things differently?
Whether we talk about a delicious home-cooked meal, or an amazing bottle of wine, it’s about the love and care put into making it, over many days and months. A lot of time and hard work goes into our pieces, made by amazing people. People who strive to protect the purity and quality of responsibly sourced cashmere. It takes a whole year for a nomad to look after three to four goats to comb enough cashmere for a single lightweight sweater, and some of our pieces take months to make.
I believe that only inspired and happy people can create something beautiful and take care of the land. We’ve been working with the same herders and fine-skilled crafts people for almost twenty years, and these connections mean everything to us.
What is the best part of your work?
The creative design process and direct contact with our nomads.
As you know, Poetica designs fragrant washing products, including delicate garment washes. We like to ask experts like you -- how do you recommend caring for cashmere?
Keep cashmere garments soft and in shape by hand washing in lukewarm water. Use a delicate wash like Poetica’s that’s free from enzymes and other ingredients that can damage protein-based fibers over time. Cashmere is naturally breathable, so you only need to wash sweaters every few wears. Between washes, let cashmere rest in fresh air and brush lightly in downward motions to remove surface dirt, using a soft-bristled brush.
C R E A T I V I T Y
What wild places do you find rejuvenation in?
I’m drawn to open, boundless wilderness that I can actively immerse myself in – hiking mountains, swimming in freezing waters; I find it all so deeply blissful.
What’s your favorite scent in nature?
Crisp, fresh air, with zero pollution.
What is a daily ritual that you find relaxation in?
Yoga and meditation every morning. Cold showers. And I walk everywhere in London.
Words to live by?
The sky is always blue.
The legacy I hope to leave is…
To contribute to the preservation of the land and the unique Mongolian nomadic lifestyle, a cultural heritage to the world for generations to come.