Finer than cashmere, stronger than mohair, smoother than silk and warmer than wool are just a few ways to describe Peruvian Alpaca.
And with the lion’s share of the world’s Alpaca originating in Peru, the country has positioned itself to be synonymous with the fiber. “In Alpaca, we’re developing a country brand in textiles,” said Eduardo Ferreyros, Peru’s Minister of Foreign Commerce and Tourism, adding that brands there are promoting their Alpaca goods as made in Peru to raise the country’s visibility with regards to this fiber. With this initiative, the Trade Commission of Peru is educating consumers and raising awareness of the land from which it is derived.
Even with Alpaca’s long history and premium positioning in the market, many myths still remain.
Myth #1: Alpaca is too rustic, too crafty.
Fact: Peruvian Alpaca is an innovative and modern industry, from the farm to the fiber to manufacturing. There is extensive research and development, for example, in breeding techniques and improving fiber selection as well as in the manufacturing process with the development of light Alpaca, digital printing, among others.
Myth #2: Alpaca is scratchy and itchy.
Fact: Peruvian Alpaca is lightweight, breathable and soft. A newborn baby can be wrapped in Alpaca with no adverse reaction. There are several qualities of this fiber, such as Royal Alpaca, Baby Alpaca, Superfine, among others, offering a range of micron counts. The flat, thin scales of this fiber surface eliminates the itch factor at any count.
Myth #3: I’m allergic to Alpaca.
Fact: Alpaca is naturally hypoallergenic and contains no oil or lanolin (the same cannot be said for wool).
Myth #4: From a design perspective, Alpaca is too limiting.
Fact: “Alpaca is extremely adaptable and provides vast design possibilities since it can be altered to make and to be used for nearly anything,” according to Igor Rojas, Responsible for the Apparel Industry Department of Promperu in Lima.
In terms of color, Alpaca fibers naturally come in a range of 22 hues from black through variations of grays and browns to white, a unique characteristic. It can also be easily dyed any color without losing its natural sheen and hand.
Alpaca fibers are fine while also quite durable. It can be manufactured on the woolen or worsted systems, resulting in production of a range of cloths from chunky to fine. In addition, Alpaca is water-resistant and non-flammable.
Myth #5: Alpaca is so heavy and only good for winter sweaters.
Fact: Alpaca is about 10% lighter than cashmere. With the smooth and semi hollow core of its fibers, Alpaca can attain tissue weights and is ideal for more than just winter wear. Plus, when Alpaca is blended with other natural and/or synthetic fibers, such as cotton, linen, silk, bamboo, poly, it also results in lighter weight garments.
Alpaca fibers innately have thermal regulating properties, too. The microscopic air pockets in the fiber bring the wearers’ temperature down on warm days and trap body heat on cool ones.
“This makes it ideal for performance garments,” said Conrado Falco, Director of the Trade Commission of Peru in New York, adding it’s the perfect choice for “to and from” activities and lifestyle apparel.
Myth #6: Alpacas are harmed for their fleece.
Fact: Alpaca hold a revered place in Peruvian culture dating back to Incan times and through today. They are well-respected, well-treated and never harmed for their fleece. The shearing process is 100% ethical and strictly adheres to ethically sound practices. Alpaca are docile and friendly animals, further eliminating the need for harsh treatment.
Myth #7: The Alpaca industry isn’t socially responsible, benefitting the people it employs.
Fact: Peru sets the standards with quality of life for its workers, having both government and private sector audits. Labor standards are high, with clean, safe work environments being the norm. Many factories provide their employees additional benefits such as on-site medical and dental care, daycare, scholarship funds for the employees and their dependents. Peru’s Alpaca industry follows socially responsible policies, with many Peruvian Alpaca factories being Fair Trade certified by the World Fair Trade Organization.
Furthermore, in the past 10 years, the Alpaca population has been steady, showing no blast in supply that could harm the land they inhabit. In sharp contrast to other luxury fibers, which are much harsher on the land.
Myth #8: Alpaca is too expensive.
Fact: 100% Alpaca comes in a variety of price points, making it a less expensive option to premium cashmere while providing a nicer hand-feel than wool. Additionally, when blended with other fibers, Alpaca provides an even greater range of pricing, further broadening its appeal to multiple segments of the market. “Adding even a small percentage of Alpaca to a yarn can turn an average yarn into a luxe one with little price increase,” Falco noted. Plus, Peruvian Alpaca is duty free to the USA, Canada, Europe and other countries.
Myth #9: Alpaca is not luxurious enough.
Fact: Alpaca is a high quality fiber with top designers around the world using Peruvian Alpaca in their collections, such as Prada, Dries Van Noten, Chloe, Tibi, Sies Marjan, Mara Hoffman and Steven Alan.
Myth #10: Peru’s Alpaca industry is too small to handle my business.
Fact: Peru is home to 80% of the global population and production of Alpaca, exporting to all the major markets around the world, including the USA, Italy, France, China, UK, Australia and more. The entire production chain, starting with the fiber to the yarn through manufacturing is fully integrated. Peru is technologically advanced with respect to the machines used and development processes, while still maintaining social, environmental and sustainable practices.
Twenty-two companies will have the best of Peruvian manufacturing and innovation on display in NYC at Premiere Vision on July 18th & 19th with thanks to Promperu and the Trade Commission of Peru in New York. The seminar “The Key Benefits of Manufacturing in Peru” will be held Tuesday July 18th at 5 p.m. at the show.