Why your next sweater should be Alpaca, not Cashmere

Last year in June, of all the party animals at February’s New York Fashion Week, the alpacas may have been the best-behaved. The lovable, long-lashed camelids mixed with the media at a party where the Peruvian Trade Commission promoted the use of their fiber.

Those alpacas arrived right on time. The widespread ubiquity of cashmere, the wool spun from soft under-hairs of Asian cashmere (or Kashmir) goats, is no longer sustainable. Sure, cashmere has gotten cheaper since making the leap from luxury to mainstream in the 1990s, but the quality has declined with the price.

In much of the world, sweater weather won’t be here for several months. But production for this autumn’s collections is already underway, and the fashion industry is onto alpaca. Brands such as Louis Vuitton and Versace have already showcased the fiber on runways in Paris and Milan. Numbers on this year’s alpaca sales aren’t yet available, but some designers say their alpaca yarn orders are on wait lists, as mills in Europe and Asia rush to buy up Peru’s supply. Like cashmere, alpaca is a natural fiber that looks and feels luxurious, and it can be equally, if not more, durable. And although it’s cheaper than cashmere, the Incas placed a higher value on the fiber than silver or gold—which isn’t really surprising to anyone who has cozied up in a coat or sweater made from the stuff. Alpacas come in range of more than twenty naturally gorgeous colors, from inky black to warm chestnut and snowy white, and their wool is lofty, soft, and warm. The alpaca boom is not only good news for Peru, which exports some $175 million of alpaca fiber each year, and for those of us who get to wear the clothes; it’s also good for the planet. Here are some reasons to choose an alpaca sweater this fall over one made from cashmere. The cashmere we know today is not sustainable.Simply put, cashmere is environmentally catastrophic. Grasslands in China cannot support the hungry goats required to keep stores stocked with piles of cashmere, and they’re turning into icy deserts.Prior to the 1990s, cashmere was a rare luxury, but as the fiber has grown cheaper over the last two decades, the demand for ultra-soft, lightweight, candy-colored cashmere sweaters has skyrocketed. (You can buy a 100% cashmere pullover today at Uniqlo for less than $90, and a blended cotton-and-cashmere version for less than $10.) To read more, click on this link http://qz.com/207489/why-your-next-sweater-should-be-alpaca-not-cashmere/

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