Alpaca: The ultimate sustainable knitwear fibre?

Cosy jumper weather has officially hit the UK. Everywhere you look people are huddled around hot drinks in cosy knits. Chunky wool knits to sleek cashmere roll necks, the choice is bountiful. The latest trendy knitwear to hit the UK? Alpaca. For once though, this is a trend that we can get behind.

credit: www.birdsofpreycentre.co.uk

credit: www.birdsofpreycentre.co.uk

Alpaca is quickly becoming one of the world’s most renowned sustainable fibres. Peru is the largest exporter and producer of Alpaca. Production and use of alpaca wool in Peru stretches back to the time of the Incas when the alpaca was worshipped for its strength and rare qualities, their fine fleeces were reserved for Incan royalty. And it’s easy to see why; alpaca outperforms many high-quality fibres due to its luster, depth of colour and long life properties.

If you haven’t already considered switching to Alpaca here are a few reasons why we think you should:

1.     Alpacas are seriously eco-friendly animals

Alpacas could be the greenest animals on the planet and are often associated with ‘regenerative agriculture’. When agriculture is regenerative, soils, water, vegetation and productivity continually improve rather than staying the same or slowly getting worse, something that many say is imperative to improve our degraded environment. The animals themselves leave minimal environmental impact as their hooves are softly padded and their eating and drinking habits are ecosystem friendly. They are well suited to harsh conditions like the Peruvians Andes where many other livestock could not survive meaning usually non- grazable land can be put to good use.

Perhaps most importantly though, is the fact that the alpacas are not harmed during the shearing process and they can continue producing wool for many years. The process of alpaca farming does not require harsh chemicals either, meaning that alpaca farming is safe and natural for both the farmers and the environment.

2.     Alpacas give work, not aid

credit: Visit Peru

credit: Visit Peru

Playing on the title of Leila Janah’s recent book ‘Give Work, Not Aid’, this is certainly true of Alpacas in Peru. Peruvian history is steeped in Alpaca farming and the industry continues to heavily support the economy today. From the breeder who raises the livestock, to the sorter who learned from their parents how to sort the fleece, to the spinners and knitters who produce some of the world’s highest quality items for fashion supply chains across the world; alpaca is part of Peru’s diverse textile heritage.

3.     Warmer, lighter, softer: it trumps other fibres hands down

Alpaca is warmer, stronger, lighter and softer than other high-end luxury materials such as cashmere and merino wool. Alpaca won’t shrink or pill if given correct care, it is hyper allergenic and has water resistant properties as well as being thermally insulating. Perhaps the most impressive characteristic of alpaca is the fact it boasts the biggest range of natural colours out of all the natural fibres, making it, we believe, the perfect all winter wear.

 

Ready to give Alpaca a go? Here’s our top 3 Alpaca jumper picks of 2017/18:

1.     Study 34

Newcastle based designer Study 34 recently launched a collection of soft and lightweight knits for women in 100% baby alpaca. Available in two classic and natural shades, light grey and camel, If you’re looking for a sleek knit for the office we think this is the perfect choice.

2.     Finisterre

The ladies Hallaze jumper is a statement, super soft, oversized knit made from an alpaca/wool blend, perfect for lazy days or wintry walks.

3.     Mamacha

Designed in the UK and lovingly handmade by a small woman’s cooperative in Peru, Mamacha’s classic crew neck, 100% Alpaca, knitwear is a great for him or her.

 

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