By Arwa Lodhi
A longtime staple of Andean cultures, the alpaca has been used for its wool for over 6,000 years. And no wonder: alpaca wool is not only soft and warm, it’s naturally anti-bacterial, stain resistant, easy to clean, doesn’t shrink or pill like cashmere or wool, wicks away moisture, is lightweight and resists wrinkling. Unlike wool, it never feels damp or holds a musty smell, and certainly never irritates skin or itches.
In fact, when the Spanish Conquistadores arrived centuries ago in Peru, they found a civilisation that was based on alpaca textiles–the Inca people made everything from clothing to bridges to roofs from super-sturdy alpaca fibres, and they even recorded their wealth in patterns of cloth knots.
However, blinded by gold, silver and precious stones, the Spanish failed to appreciate the true value of the fabric, and in an effort to conquer the alpaca-dependant Inca, they ordered the slaughter of the prized animals. By some accounts, up to 90% of the alpacas in South America were slaughtered and left to rot in the fields– a small number of these animals were saved, but herding and textile making techniques were greatly diminished.
Thankfully today, with a stronger focus on ecological materials and animal kindness, the alpaca has made a huge comeback with conscious fashion brands. Its eco-friendliness, durability, softness and thermal qualities have made it a particular favourite amongst eco-friendly designers, and the docile alpaca is an easy animal to shear, meaning even vegans can wear this wool with peace of mind.
Here, we’ve chosen five of the best baby alpaca brands around.
Shunning the fashion cycle, Sol Aplaca’s Peruvian made designs are meant to last for seasons – even generations. No wonder it’s a favourite brand with both luxury-loving South Americans and tourists to the region.
Tourists to Peru often won’t leave the country without one of Sol Alpaca’s gorgeously designed wraps, sweaters or scarves, but you can also order online from this tip baby alpaca brand.
Since 1976, Peruvian Connection has been dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of luxurious textile designs inspired by ancient traditions of the Andes. They offer the world’s most beautiful knitwear, artisan-made in soft alpaca or silky Peruvian pima cotton. There are countless reasons why alpaca fiber is so revered, but here at Peruvian Connection, it’s how the fiber has woven its way into the history of Peruvian culture that makes it so compelling and endearing.
Five times a year, they produce a new and entirely original collection of garments for women and men, including exquisite, one-of-a-kind art knits. Their fashion-forward designs are perfect for women who appreciate luxury and fine craftsmanship.
Creating simple scarves, cowls, blankets and children’s wear, Plum of London is the top brand for top Brits with plummy accents. Whilst it has relied on staples for kids for several years now, the brand has recently introduced sweaters and scarves for adults, too. The high quality, dazzling colours and classic designs from this baby alpaca brand has gained it features in the best British magazines like Vogue and Tatler.
Dedicated to Fair Trade principles, this Scottish designer is passionate about providing those who provide her with alpaca fibres with a sustainable livelihood.
Samantha Holmes designs offers buttersoft clothing for babies, and her range of toasty bed socks and hot water bottles ensure that chills will be kept at bay even during the coldest winter nights.
Although Samantha does use alpaca fur in some of her work, it is important to note that because alpacas are worth far more alive than dead, all her fur comes from animals that have died naturally, as opposed to being killed for their coats.
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This purely European baby alpaca brand uses British reared alpaca for its fibres, which are then spun and knitted by British craftsmen and women to make clothing that is perfect for–you guessed it–the highly variable British weather! Thick cable knits, fine scarves and even alpaca yarn are all sold internationally on Purl’s site.