Cashmere first became popular in the western world sometime in the 1980s when the fashion industry first started using the fiber for sweaters, coats, jackets, cardigans, and scarves. However, cashmere has been used for centuries in traditional societies, places where the goats are bred and raised for their wool. Just like the rise of the cashmere in the 1980s, in recent times, there is another fiber that has become very popular – Alpaca. What is alpaca, and is it better than cashmere? Let us find out.
Alpaca is wool that comes from the fleece of the alpaca, which is a close relative of the South American llama, which you will find in the Andes Mountains. Soft and docile, there are no wild alpacas now. The animal is domesticated, and bred for its wool. In fact, the Incas used to grow alpaca wool high up in the Andes to make clothes for royalty. This is why alpaca is sometimes referred to as “fiber of the Gods”.
Like cashmere, the alpaca fiber too is soft, lightweight, durable, extremely comfortable, and the fiber strength is excellent too. The fibers are slightly longer. And once again, like cashmere, alpaca wool comes in natural tones – brown, black, grey, and white. However, the most prized cashmere wool is usually in white color.
Even a few years back, alpaca was considered to be a poor man’s cashmere. But many designer garment makers are now using the fiber, so it is becoming a mainstream material. Some are even saying that alpaca is slightly softer, warmer, and lighter than cashmere. Many top designer houses, such as Nanette Lepore, Max Mara, Giorgio Armani, and even Loro Piana are using both cashmere and alpaca.
So Are The Days Of Cashmere Numbered?
In recent years, there have been reports that cashmere is being mass produced to meet the huge demand and lower its high cost. Often, cashmere is also being blended with other materials as well, so it is not 100% cashmere sometimes. But if you consider only pure 100% cashmere, then it is still as good as alpaca, and even better. For this, you have to be careful when buying cashmere.
Make sure that your cashmere is not China made. Buy from the most renowned manufacturers of the fabric such as Dormeuil or Luigi Colombo and you can be sure of the cashmere you have. Cashmere is a classic. The best material will always remain good, highly coveted.
The Two Breeds Of Alpaca
There are two main breeds of this type of camel – the Suri alpaca, and Huacaya alpaca. The wool you get from Suri is more lustrous, but the hair is less curly. Huacaya alpaca, on the other hand, has a curly crimpled and dense coat. The fabric is also cross dyed often after weaving. You have to be careful when buying your alpaca wool too as not all varieties are the best material.
Also do remember, there are 450 million goats that produce cashmere in the world, but only about 4 million alpacas. If alpaca wool becomes as popular as cashmere, then it can be a matter of concern.