Alpaca - the new cashmere?

Alpaka - das neue Kaschmir?

The general megatrend back to natural products is recently not only clearly evident in people’s leisure activities, it is also reflected in their consumer behaviour. Not only does the classic clothing industry play a key role here, but – not least, reinforced by the current Corona crisis – the furnishing industry too. In addition to classic natural fibers such as cotton,merino, and cashmere, newcomers such as alpaca are being recognised by consumers. But does the alpaca fiber keep what it promises – especially in comparison with the “queen” of natural fibers – cashmere wool? No question,cashmere can be found everywhere – in recent years the fine fiber from the Cashmere region (main producer countries China, Mongolia, and Iran) has experienced a strong boom, which is associated with high risks with such a scarce raw material. Cashmere always adorned with an excellent reputation and an extraordinary elegance is still considered the luxury fiber par excellence. But this status is outdated – it has long since become an integral part of mainstream goods. This suddenly results in demand for large amounts of cashmere.However, this can no longer be served by the pure, original Kashmir, which comes from the region in the Himalayas and is characterised by extreme weather conditions all year round. In addition to the enormous increase in demand,external factors such as climate change (90% of Mongolia is now parched)exacerbate the careful and original production method of the cashmere fiber that once led it to its current status. This not only has a direct influence on animal keeping, but also the environment, which is currently stepped and overgrazed increasingly. Since the process of authenticating cashmere fiber is expensive and lengthy, the number of counterfeits in the market is increasing.At the foot of this great cashmere hype, the market for equal alternatives to the original cashmere fiber – such as alpaca fiber – is growing. Combined in it's fiber properties, alpaca offers a haptic that is just as soft and fine as cashmere. Just like cashmere, high-quality alpaca has a fiber thickness of fewer than 20 micrometers. The unique thermal properties of both alpaca and cashmere are also at eye level – the alpaca fiber is hollow on the inside,which is why heat can be stored in cold temperatures or can be compensated for in warm temperatures. Both alpaca and cashmere are considered highly self-cleaning fibers, so that simple airing in the fresh air is often enough to remove bad odors. The fact that alpaca appears in 22 different shades in nature may not be enough to clearly stand out from cashmere. So there is no doubt about equally fine threads that hardly differ in the feel of their wool. What fundamentally differentiates alpaca from cashmere is the ethically correct extraction of the fur, which – obtained from animals that died of natural causes – is considered the rarest and most valuable real fur in the world due to the fact that cashmere goats have no fur. While cashmere is undoubtedly the classic among the finest types of wool, alpaca is considered the “trendsetter”of the new generation – warm, soft and modern. After all, nowadays it is essential to include the factors of animal well-being and environmental protection in the purchase decision. Here, alpaca clearly is the winner.Furthermore, alpacas only nibble on the tips of grass and other plants; they do not tear plants out of the ground, which leads to less disruption of vegetation and allows latter to regrow. Unlike goats and sheep, which have sharp hooves that damage pasture and soil, alpacas have two toes with toenails on top and a soft pad on the bottom of each foot, which minimizes damage to grazing land. In addition, the increasing number of cashmere counterfeits on the market makes it difficult “to turn a blind eye to the fact that cashmere goats are often shorn under cruel conditions and that their pastures are grazed due to the large number of herds.”

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