In times of superfood and protein shakes, hyperloops and autonomous electric cars, the question of the perfect fabrics automatically arises, too. Attractive in appearance, special in the touch and feel, unique in its properties – and not to forget, environment-friendly. So: does the alpaca fiber have what it takes to be the new super-fiber?
Let’s start with optics. The alpaca animals naturally appear in 22 colors – a record! This color spectrum enables a variable color palette of exclusively natural (!) colors. From snow white to beige and brown to black. Although about 80-85% of alpacas are white, all other colors can also be found in nature. This diversity is reflected in the products made from alpaca fiber, both in the products made from alpaca wool (the processed material of a shorn animal) and, above all, in the products made from alpaca fur (the by-product of a naturally deceased animal). Here we differentiate again between the two types of fur: Huacaya and Suri. While the dense, fluffy Huacaya provides an incredible, haptic experience for cuddling, the silky, loose Suri perfectly emphasizes the natural shine of the alpaca fiber.
Speaking of haptics: the alpaca fiber, like most other fabric fibers, also has different quality levels that make a clear difference in its touch and feel. The fiber quality is measured in fiber thickness. So, there are low-quality, coarse alpaca fibers with a fiber thickness of around 30 microns (comparable to sheep’s wool) on one side, but on the other side there are also very fine alpaca with a fiber thickness below 20 microns (comparable to silk). WEICH Couture Alpaca exclusively offers the highest quality level “Royal Alpaca” with a fiber thickness of less than 18 microns. If we now focus exclusively on this high fiber quality, the Alpaca fiber creates an incomparable, haptic experience – especially for the Huacaya type. If you blow smoothly into the fur, you will find a crimped structure inside the fiber, the so-called “crimp”. A sign of the highest quality. Even though the alpaca wool is already a very high-quality and, above all, more exclusive alternative to the well-known cashmere fabric, the true haptic experience really becomes apparent in the fur products. At the right level of quality, these are fur products of unprecedented softness. There is simply no animal whose fur feels so incredibly soft. No rabbit, no fox, no mink.
In addition, the alpaca fiber naturally brings with it a variety of unique features. Originally, the alpaca fiber was appreciated by the royal families of the Incas for its natural shine, robustness and incomparable softness. The alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic and thus ideally suited for allergy sufferers, babies and sensitive skin types. In addition, the alpaca fiber contains hardly any lanolin, the classic wool fat, which is why it acts both dust and sweat repellent. It is therefore a highly self-cleaning fiber. As a result, the Alpaca fiber, in addition to its exclusivity, has unique properties and therefore fits perfectly into sophisticated interiors as well as the upscale hotel and gastronomy industry.
As a matter of fact, the Alpaca fiber is hollow inside, which in turn allows a unique heat balance. In summer, the alpaca fiber can develop a cooling character, whereas especially in winter, a pleasant heat storage takes place, which makes you feel the extra heat directly on the skin. Thus, the alpaca fiber is about 30% warmer than conventional merino wool. These properties make the alpaca fiber in the clothing industry a now very popular alternative in the margins of the cashmere hype. In the home textile industry, however, we still speak of a real insider tip, although alpaca is ideal for home textiles due to this insulating ability which makes it highly flame-resistant, too.
As if all this were not enough to qualify for the concept of “super-fiber”, the alpaca fiber also provides the ideal conditions to meet the megatrends of sustainability and environmental friendliness. Alpacas have been domesticated animals for many generations and are therefore almost exclusively kept for breeding. Here, the annual shearing and the associated extraction of high-quality alpaca wool is the primary source of income for every alpaca farmer. Factory farming? Not at all! The average herd size is 80-100 animals, mostly kept by an isolated alpaca farmer in the highlands of the Andes. Concomitantly, alpacas are highly efficient animals that require significantly less land and water for breeding than cashmere goats or sheep. Alpaca does not damage the pasture when grazing, so that new grass can emerge on the already grazed land.
The trend is clear – while we are in a hectic world desperately in search of the perfect food, for the perfect means of transportation – as for the textile sector, alpaca can be undoubtedly referred to as “super-fiber”. WEICH Couture Alpaca is regarded as a pioneer for alpaca fur products, the non-plus ultra in the home textiles sector. The fur of the 21st century. What is meant by this, can be read here.