Alpaca fiber is loved around the world for its natural softness and warming properties. Here at Inca Brands, our love for Alpaca fiber is found in some special places. Allow me to elaborate and see what you think...
The same two questions we hear all the time:
What is Alpaca? Why do you use it?
Alpaca fleece or “wool” is a high-quality fiber which has been used by top designers around the world (see Prada & Ralph Lauren). Just this year, Ralph Lauren used Alpaca wool in the 2018 Winter Olympic uniforms for Team USA.
Alpaca wool is in high-demand by premier fashion designers because of it is a naturally hypoallergenic fiber that improves the qualities of any fiber it is blended with. It does not contain any oil or lanolin. It's estimated that as many as 20% of the U.S. population has some type of wool allergy. What these people are actually allergic to is the lanolin and dander found in sheep's wool. Alpaca contains neither of these and therefore is a go-to choice for people with wool sensitivities.
Additionally, some people find sheep's wool to be itchy especially in sensitive areas around the underarms and neck. Alpaca with it's softer feel has less itch and gains additional softness the more it's worn.
Babies can be safely wrapped in Alpaca with no adverse reaction. It does not harm their sensitive skin, and there is no concern for an allergic reaction. This is why we see more and more Alpaca being used in baby blankets.
Let's talk warmth factor...
It's so light, how can this be warm?
Allow me a moment to indulge my inner nerd, as the answer is scientific. If we were to view a single strand of Alpaca fiber under a microscope, it would reveal a smooth, semi-hollow structure (imagine a tube or drinking straw). The sweaters feel so lightweight because the fiber that makes up the sweater are hollow - reducing its weight.
Each fiber strand absorbs air and the ambient temperature along with it. So, as it takes in the air around it, it insulates and traps the warmth. Practically speaking, when you're wearing an Alpaca sweater the fibers in the sweater absorb your body's natural temperature and insulates you from external cold temperatures.
Because the stands allow for air flow, there is also natural moisture wicking that occurs. The fiber pulls moisture away from your body and allows it to dry (thank you air flow). Known as "hydromorphic" - Alpaca has a water retention rate of 0%, compared to most sheep's wool which can be as high as 33%.
- Alpaca has a long tradition as an apparel textile. Long respected and revered in the Peruvian Culture dating back to the Incan times, Alpaca's were never harmed to obtain their fleece.
- Alpaca is among the most sustainable types of textiles since the fiber is shorn off the alpacas once a year. The animals don’t pollute or destroy their environment.
- Since Alpaca contains no oils, it does not need harsh chemicals to clean or scour it.
- Alpaca fleece has been found to have the most extensive natural color choice with more than 22 different colors and can be dyed to create an array of colors and pattern designs.
Largely because of all these characteristics and the relatively low population of Alpaca worldwide, the price of Alpaca garments is higher than that of sheep's wool. The result is that many garments labeled as "Alpaca" contain only a small percentage of Alpaca in them. As an apparel designer, we believe in the use of 100% Alpaca garments, as to not sacrifice what makes Alpaca unique. A blended garment containing Alpaca and wool is no longer hypoallergenic or lightweight.
This is why we are licensed member of the International Alpaca Association (IAA). The IAA was founded to protect the image of the alpaca fiber and its derivatives, as well as the promotion of international consumption and ensure the quality of their products, which is the interest of all institutions and companies worldwide have an interest in trading, processing, and manufacturing of the alpaca fiber.
As an apparel designer, we believe in the use of 100% Alpaca garments, as to not sacrifice what makes Alpaca unique.
There are even more wonderful facts about alpaca that I will share with you down the line, but the most fun is wearing it and finding out first hand!
We are excited about the growing awareness of alpaca as a wearable fiber and cannot wait to see what the future holds.