1. What's the difference between alpaca and cashmere, in terms of quality?
Alpaca and cashmere are of similar quality when you compare the softness of both fibres
One needs to be certain of the source of cashmere and alpaca to determine its quality. The best quality alpaca is found in Peru, whereas cashmere originally came from Kashmir in India. China now mass produces over 67% of all cashmere products sold on the high street. Most of the products are a cashmere blend and not 100% pure. The best quality alpaca products are crafted by artisans in Peru.
Alpacas are fewer in number across the world than goats, (which produce cashmere), making the alpaca fibre more highly valued and more exclusive than cashmere. The alpaca fibre comes in 22 natural shades and is shorn annually, similar to a sheep being shorn for its wool
Alpaca is a rarer product than cashmere (made of goats), therefore it may hold its value better over time. Alpaca fibre comes in 22 natural shades and is shorn annually causing no harm to the alpacas. Cashmere, too, is shorn. The main difference between the two is that cashmere has a shorter fibre length and so is processed on the woollen spinning system in the main with alpaca’s longer fibre length making it suitable for worsted spinning.
Alpaca fibre has a hollow structure with microscopic air pockets providing excellent insulation, keeping you warm in the winter, as well as allowing for outstanding breathability to keep you cool in the summer. The thermal insulation of the alpaca is better than a similar garment made from cashmere.
Alpaca pills less than cashmere and maintains its appearance over time, cashmere however, loses its lustre after a couple of years. Alpaca is more wrinkle resistant than cashmere making this an excellent material for capsule travel pieces like the Ruana. Alpaca is also hypoallergenic fibre and contains minimum lanolin.
When comparing cashmere to alpaca, the softness of each is subjective, yet difference in quality of fibres, depends on the source of manufacturing and the craftsmanship behind each piece.
Arlette Lee works exclusively with alpaca and only engages with manufacturers and suppliers in Peru who are members of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), as well as being a licensed member of the International Alpaca Association (IAA). As a result, customers are secure in the knowledge that they are buying authentic alpaca, handmade in Peru.
2. Besides not having to harm animals to use it, how else is alpaca an ethical material?
At 3,500 metres and higher above sea level, alpacas are free range roaming animals with pasture rotation. Alpaca farming generates an income for communities who live just on or under subsistence levels. Alpacas contribute to the Andean farmers nutritional and economic welfare, as well as to the ecotourism.
Alpaca fibre is ethical, sustainable, renewable and biodegradable.
3. Your line is mainly wraps. Any plans to branch out?
Our core product is the Ruana. A Ruana is an Andean style of cape, designed with Arlette’s modern heritage twist. Arlette Lee will slowly grow the line in the future with additional versatile accessories. Everything we design is with the customer in mind offering them premium quality pieces to use in contemporary life; to wear around town, at home to on a plane.
4. What first got you interested in working with this material?
My first encounter of an alpaca was in Peru. Once I saw them in their natural habitat and felt the softness of the alpaca next to my skin, I fell in love with alpaca. I learnt that approximately 95% of the alpacas live in Peru where they withstand extreme weather conditions varying from -20°C to +30°C in a single day. Not only did the alpaca feel silky next to my skin, there was no itch factor as it is hypoallergenic. Alpaca provides excellent thermal insulation, wicks away body moisture and is a resistant fibre which doesn’t wrinkle.
I decided to base all the production in Peru where the artisans have the expertise of working with alpaca to produce knitwear of exceptional quality; all hand finished.
Our goal is to provide the end customer with authentic crafted alpaca wardrobe staples which will stand the test of time; preserving nature with style.