Alpaca is having a moment. Many young designers, particularly those with sustainability in mind, have been heading to South America recently in search of luxurious alpaca yarns. The result is beautiful, diverse collections of knitwear that make the prospect of winter kind of exciting.
Baby Alpaca is considered one of the most luxurious fibers in the world due to its silky softness. It's lighter in weight than wool, yet much warmer and stronger (meaning it pills less easily so garments made from alpaca tend to wear better longer). It is also free of lanolin, which means it is less itchy than wool and less likely to irritate the skin. It naturally comes in a variety of colors, from ivory to black, so dying it is not necessary. And, because it's a natural fiber, it's completely biodegradable and sustainable. This element is at the forefront of Animana Patagonia, a lifestyle brand based in in the Peruvian Andes. The brand, founded by Adriana Marina, a native of Patagonia, aims to make "products under the principles of sustainability respecting the life cycle of the product using a cradle to cradle approach. This approach focuses on avoiding creation of waste and fragmented system of manufacturing and use, but instead enter everything in a regenerating cycle, considering life cycle of the product not from cradle to grave but from cradle to cradle." Their textiles, home products, clothing and accessories are based in local traditions of arts and crafts.
Designer Giuliana Raggiani (Giu Giu) was introduced to alpaca while studying knitwear at Central Saint Martins in London. Her AW14 collection features funky, cool unisex sweaters and blankets made in Uruguay and each piece is signed by its knitter. Her collection references "traditional craft and innovations of the future, a common thread woven through her work." I'm particularly obsessed with the reversible Homestay Sweater (below).
Giu Giu Homestay Sweater, $440.