The gold of the Andes
Softness, silkiness and shine are the characteristics that distinguish the wool of Alpaca, a noble fibre that boasts elegance, luxury and remarkable value for centuries.
Since ancient times the alpaca, camelid native to South America, has been particularly appreciated to the point of being named “the gold of the Andes”: the prized animal is bred with extreme care depending on the characteristics of the fibre, which vary enormously between alpacas.
There are two distinct and highly sought-after breeds in the textile world: the Huacaya Alpaca, characterized by a soft and curled fleece that grows perpendicularly to the body, and the alpaca Suri, characterized by a silky and twisted mantle, renowned for its unmistakable shine.
In addition to qualities known as its extreme softness and brilliance, Alpaca wool is elastic, hypoallergenic and non-flammable. Moreover, it has special thermal properties that make it resistant to both cold and heat. The wide variety of beautiful natural colours that it presents, from pure white to shaded black, gives the wool the particularity of being able to be used naturally, without being subjected to dyeing processes.
The history of the Alpaca
From its origins to today
The origins of the Alpaca date back to the 4th millennium B.C.
Extremely important for the Inca culture, “the gold of the Andes” was bred to create precious fabrics, reserved only for the emperor, his family and the most influential members of the court. Over the years, alpaca wool has become the most famous artisanal fibre in Peru and its processing, which boasts centuries of tradition, is protected by UNESCO as a real estate of universal interest.
The alpaca has always been the symbol of personal prestige: the wealth of a person was estimated by the number of alpacas he possessed. The Inca population used the products in Alpaca as a source of trade and barter.
In the sixteenth century, the Spanish conquest of Peru put a strain on the survival of the species: a large number of alpacas were massacred to favour the breeding of sheep. The few survivors were moved to the plateau of Puno Alta, becoming accustomed to a hot day and cold temperatures during the night.
Following the collapse of the Inca Empire, the ancient farming techniques were lost and with them also the ability to obtain a high-quality fibre. The fate of alpaca wool seemed by now marked: only in the nineteenth century, after numerous studies and wrong attempts, it was possible to find a way to weave it again and the fibre will become more and more in demand in the textile market. In addition to Peru and Bolivia, more and more farms around the world are spreading. Most of the developed countries, including Australia, the United States and Japan, apply state-of-the-art farming systems, with the aim of encouraging wool production, ensuring high-quality standards and protecting the survival of the species.
Alpacas are sheared once a year during the spring season: a female Alpaca is able to produce about 2.5 kg of wool while the male has the ability to generate even 4 kg of wool per year.
Once the fibre is cut, it is processed manually at an industrial level to be cleaned of dust and dead hair. Later, the wool is dried and collected in jute bales. Finally, the fibre can be spun and woven, ready to give life to warm, soft and bright fabrics.