Why Choose Alpaca?
Alpaca is one of the world’s most luxurious natural fibers. Originating in the Peruvian Andes, alpacas have played a vital role in the country’s history. The domestication of alpacas took place between 4000 and 5000 B.C. This led to the use of alpaca fiber for textiles around 2500 B.C. Peru has a rich and impressive history of making intricate textiles. Woven pieces could even be used as currency and often reflected someone's social status. In ancient times, the finest alpaca clothing was reserved for Incan royalty and came from a baby alpaca's first shearing. It has been called the "Fiber of the Gods," though it is commonly known as royal alpaca. Today, alpacas still play an important part in the Peruvian culture and economy. Cultivating their fiber supports over a million small alpaca farmers in Andean communities.
Not only are alpacas an important part of Peruvian culture and history, but they leave a much smaller ecological footprint than other livestock raised for natural fiber such as sheep and goats. Living at high altitudes (about 3,800 meters above sea level) the water the alpacas are sustained with is a naturally occurring resource. Alpacas are also gentle eaters. The grasses that they feed on are not ripped out at the root as they graze pastures, giving the plant life a chance to grow back to be fed on again. Furthermore, other natural fiber producing animals need more food than alpacas. For example, a cashmere goat would need to eat twice as much grass as an alpaca.
The low impact on environmental resources is not the only way that alpacas are gentle on the environment. Processing the fiber into yarns for clothing production is also less intensive than with other natural fibers. Firstly, alpaca fiber comes in 22 natural colors and these colors can be blended into other shades that may not occur naturally. The array of beautiful colors that are naturally available cuts back on industrial dyeing leading to less water and energy used. Due to its low grease content, the washing process for alpaca fiber is less extensive than with other animal fibers, saving more water and energy. Alpaca fiber is a great insulator and works well in both warm and cold climates. Eco-friendly construction businesses have even used alpaca fiber to insulate buildings. The fact that it is highly resistant to flames is another draw for green-builders, as well as for makers of a variety of other fiber based products, especially clothing.
Alpaca clothing is a wonderful investment for a multitude of reasons. The structure of the fiber is very strong making clothing last for years and years which is a welcome quality in the fast-fashion world that is proliferating today. The longevity of alpaca clothing is not its only desirable attribute. It is also much softer than other animal fibers so you won't feel the familiar itch of a wool sweater. Under a microscope you would see that each individual alpaca fiber is much smoother than that of wool or cashmere. Alpaca fiber also has no lanolin in it making it naturally hypoallergenic. Travelers appreciate alpaca clothing due to its lightness. A thick alpaca jacket is like a feather when compared to a thick woolen coat. Additionally, alpaca fiber naturally repels water and is hygroscopic, meaning it can absorb moisture from the air wick it away from the body. So, if you were to wear an alpaca coat in wet or humid weather, you won't be left with as much of that soggy feeling that comes from damp clothing.
Whether you appreciate alpaca fiber for its practical qualities or for its luxuriousness, it is plain to see that this renewable resource is incredibly valuable.