Thought to be a mix between a vicuña and a llama, alpacas are very intelligent and gentle animals that live in large herds at altitudes ranging from 3,500 to 5,000 meters in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes in southern Peru, northern Bolivia and northern Chile. Their wool has been obtained by indigenous peoples for centuries, hence its colloquial name “the gold of Incas”, which also proves the uniqueness of this raw material.
Alpaca fiber is famous for its lightness, thermal properties and exceptional silky touch. We might say that this precious fiber has a gloss comparable to silk and a soft texture comparable to cashmere. Thus its success particularly in winter garments. Alpaca wool is naturally antiallergic - unlike sheep wool, it does not contain lanolin, which also means that it does not attract dust nor mites. Like cashmere, alpaca is very soft to the touch and does not scratch and its fibers are more durable than sheep's wool fibers. Nevertheless, it is a delicate material and is most often combined with other natural fibers such as sheep wool, cotton or silk, which allows for more durable clothes that are equally warm, soft and elegant.
The most important property of alpaca is thermoregulation. It protects very well against cold and adapts to body temperature. The alpaca fibers contain microscopic air pockets that act as a good insulator of heat in cold weather, but at the same time allow the body to breathe. This property also reduces the overall weight of the fiber and makes cutting and sewing of this material extremely pleasant because of its magnificent drape quality.
Alpaca is the only animal in the world that produces wool in a wide range of colors: from pure white, through a whole range of browns and beiges, to carbon black, together over 20 natural colors. The most desirable color is white, considered the most difficult to obtain as well as the easiest to dye.
Alpaca wool can be used for virtually any garment, from coats and scarves to sweaters and jackets. It can be spun to very thin fibers thus it is also used in the production of thin materials used for bedding or sports clothes. The above uses of alpaca, as well as its low production, make it an extremely expensive raw material, with prices even more expensive than cashmere. Therefore, when ordering a tailored jacket or coat with alpaca wool, you should be prepared for a considerable expense.
Fabrics to recommend
The collection worth seeing is the “SherryAlpaca” of the British house of Holland & Sherry. It proposes a unique, rich in colors combination of blends of alpaca, silk and wool woven in a twill construction. You will appreciate the bold check patterns designed for a more casual and sporty look.
Also worth mentioning is the “Proposte Giacche” collection by Loro Piana, where you discover the alpaca and wool blends in loose weave ideal for your everyday winter blazer.