It’s an apparel company with a unique spin — specifically, yak wool spun into a clothing line of base and mid layers along with activewear. This company is called Kora.

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Kora’s story began when founder Michael Kleinwort found himself living with nomadic yak herders in the Himalayan mountains. In a remote location at nearly 15,000 feet in elevation, it was easy to see the uniqueness of this relationship between the yaks and the herders. Curious about how the yaks stayed warm in such extreme conditions, Michael began investigating their coats and discovered they shed a layer of soft, fine wool each spring. As it turns out, this is a not-so-well-kept secret, as nomadic herders in the region have been collecting and selling the material for hundreds of years where it’s been used for clothing, tents, ropes, blankets and other products.

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On a mission to use the wool for activewear, Michael began experimenting with combinations that allow breathability, warmth and maneuverability. After a few years of trial and error, he mastered a mixture of yak wool and other materials that create the right balance. As a result, Kora now has several collections of basics and activewear. 

Kora aims to produce long-lasting, durable clothing that’s made with responsibly-sourced materials. Inasmuch, it buys wool directly from a local herder collective to ensure the animals and environment are protected. Dozens of families make up the Kegawa Herders’ Cooperative, which offers financial support to the remote, high-elevation tribes. 

After harmless collection in the spring, the yaks go about their day and the wool is sent to a local Tibetan factory where it is washed and spun into yarn.

A man and woman modeling the Yardang collection

Each Kora collection has its own blend of wool and other materials in order to achieve a balance between optimal performance, comfort and durability. The goal is to create a closed-loop cycle of only renewable materials that are biodegradable and recyclable. This is a primary reason Kora uses natural materials in the process. 

Kora says it has seen a reduction in the amount of wool the yaks are producing, likely due to climate change. Even at nearly 15,000 feet, global warming is impacting the environment. Not wanting to tax the limited supply, Kora relies on Merino sheep wool as a soft, light, warm material that compliments the yak wool products. 

Kora explains, “Alongside yak wool and merino, we strategically incorporate technical fabrics and finishes into products to make them the most superior option available, without compromising our environmental values. Our current partners include; Natulon mechanically recycled zips, Polartec® Alpha® (a high-tech alternative to down and fleece), Dupont Sorona® (an eco-friendly biodegradable polymer) and Coolmax® Eco (a recycled polyester).”

Yak wool is used to performing in the wild. Inasmuch, as clothing, it naturally wicks away moisture for optimal temperature control while hiking or working outdoors. Yak wool is also naturally antibacterial and odor resistant. 

“Kora owns and actively takes part in every element of the supply chain, from sourcing wool and creating our fabrics to designing and making our garments in our local factory,” said Kora founder, Michael Kleinwort. “There are, of course, much faster ways of developing products, but as a company our focus is on developing premium, long-lasting and sustainable apparel. That takes time, but our customers are fans for life once they’ve used our products and understand why we exist and what we support.” 

Close view of a brown Kora jacket

Kora Yardang review

The company offered to send a product sample and who am I to refuse activewear, let alone clothing made from yak wool? Subsequently, I received the Yardang jersey and matching hat.

The hat is warm and comfortable. I find myself grabbing it often to block the early morning chill. To be honest, my first impression when I pulled the jersey out of the bag was that this top wouldn’t fit a doll. It appears to be tiny. However, as soon as I began to put it on, it became obvious how easily the material stretched to size. So if you order one, don’t panic when you see the initial shape. 

The copper orange color just might be my new favorite shade. It’s a perfect blend of color without standing out in a crowd. The embellished details are a nice touch on the hat and the end of the sleeve. 

I love the stretchy material and overall fit. It’s a snug fit, but it doesn’t bunch or grab anywhere. The flexible fabric allows me to move freely without restriction. 

I’m particularly pleased with the long arms that touch just below the wrist on me. It makes for a comfortable fit that layers nicely with other long sleeves if necessary. My only critique is that I wish it was an inch longer. Although not a crop by any means, I’m not long-waisted and it hits at the top of my waistline. I feel like I’m pulling it down a lot. However, when layered with a longer, form-fitting tank top underneath, the Kora jersey stays in place without exposing my midsection. 

The first thing people want to know about wool is whether it’s scratchy. I would not describe this jersey as scratchy. Nor would I describe it as soft. I would say it’s cozy and comforting. There is the slightest hint of the common wool roughness, but it’s counterbalanced by a supportive yet flexible fit and a stretchiness that provides plenty of room to move. The material is highly breathable, even in the armpit area, so I’ve worn it on days ranging in temperature from 30-60 degrees. 

+ Kora 

Images via Kora 

Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.