Alpaca - the Emperor’s Treasure
Alpaca wool is a unique and luxurious fiber that has been prized for over 6,000 years. It is often referred to as “The Treasure of the Andes Mountains” because of its unmatched softness and warmth. Peru’s indigenous people domesticated the animals that roamed the snow-covered steppes of the Andes and the alpaca was a critical resource as they built great civilizations – including the famed Incan Empire. Through the first known use of selective breeding, two distinct breeds of Alpaca – Suri and Huacaya - were developed and they now come in over 20 natural shades of fleece including creamy white - soft camel - smooth grey - and rich black.
Once reserved exclusively for the Pre-Incan elite and nobility, Alpaca wool is far superior to sheep’s wool and cashmere in several respects. It does not contain lanolin, and is hypoallergenic for those with wool allergies. The longer fibers are also longer-lasting and less likely to pill. The hollow fiber makes it lightweight, water resistant and still up to 30% warmer than merino wool. Soft and lustrous, it can be used in its myriad natural colors or dyed in a vibrant array of colors. It is also a sustainable fiber, as the alpacas are shorn once a year and can live up to 20 years. Alpaca wool is even naturally flame resistant!
Cashmere production is having a devastating environmental impact through intensive and destructive grazing that is turning parts of Asia into a desert. By contrast, alpaca live in harmony with the environment and do not damage their grazing lands. The native Andean herdsmen still use traditional techniques to raise small, free-range herds. For this reason, The Natural Resources Defense Council strongly recommends the use of fine alpaca fiber, like that in all of our alpaca products, instead of unsustainable cashmere.
Equally important to the story of alpaca is the artistry of the Peruvian people who work with the fiber. Thousands of years of civilization with the alpaca as a central element has resulted in a tradition of weaving and knitting that is without parallel anywhere in the world. It is a foundation of their culture, and now a growing force in the economic development of their communities. Working with small, family-owned, fair trade producers, we are marrying millennia of Peruvian artisanry with a modern design aesthetic that draws on Scandinavian and American influences.