For those of you who have spent any amount of time in Cusco you will know that alpaca clothing abounds but that finding high quality, original designs that you can actually wear once you get back home is a little more difficult!
Alpaca International is a small locally-owned boutique in the heart of Cusco that we fell in love with recently. It’s easy to walk past the store front on Santa Catalina Angosta street as from the outside it doesn’t look like much. Don’t be fooled though, because the real magic of the Alpaca International creations only become apparent when you browse through the shop filled with different styles and the assistant starts pulling out different collections that look great on and are above all unique and exclusive designs.
As the name suggests, Alpaca International specializes in the highest quality baby alpaca. Peruvian Zia Boccacio was first inspired by this mythical Andean animal when she was just aged nine and saw her first alpaca. This encounter started a love affair with Zia now designing and creating her unique alpaca wool creations in her native Peru and exporting to the U.S.
Alpaca has been a symbol of Andean civilization for thousands of years and is also known as the ‘Gold of the Andes’. Zia uses only 100% pure baby alpaca in her designs. Baby alpaca is a luxurious natural fiber that is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool and has a soft, glossy feeling like silk that keeps you warm when it’s cold but is also breathable in warmer temperatures.
Zia, now based in the U.S is proud of her Peruvian heritage promoting the Peruvian culture and textile tradition through her alpaca designs and has won a range of awards including the ‘Succesful Peruvian Business Woman in America 2014.’ Her sister Ligia manages the Peruvian operations and can often be found in the Cusco Alpaca International store selling personally to her clients.
Alpaca International has a whole range of original designs but our favourites were the versatile Frida cardigan, the Suri cape made with the softest baby alpaca available on the market and the Intarsia range designed in collaboration with the designer Intiwara and found exclusively in Alpaca international. We also loved all of their ponchos and the baby alpaca throws hand-embellished with a silk floral design.
Creations cost a little more than you find in the markets around town and are geared more towards the 30+ age group. These are nice original, investment pieces that you will be able to wear once you get back home and have as a nice memory of your time in Cusco!
Don’t forget to claim your free baby alpaca finger puppet or doll with any purchase. Just let them know that you heard about Alpaca International from Best of Peru Travel in the store!
Written by Best of Peru Travel (password: alpaca)
“It was a vision. I saw this mystical creature against the mountain,” says Zia Boccaccio, owner and inspiration for Alpaca International Inc. This vision from a 7-year old girl in her homeland of Peru would pioneer the development of soft, elegant wool from Alpaca into a fashion statement with Alpaca wool which was once reserved for Incan royalty. The light, silky texture breathes, adding warmth when needed but light enough for many seasonal designs.
It is natural and very beautiful. Boccaccio brings her vision from Peru to her retail locations around the world: Annapolis, MD, Park City, UT, Juno AK, and Cusco Peru, as well as a wholesale distribution network.
With international flair and entrepreneurial spirit, Alpaca International Inc. has made a statement in fashion. Using the Baby Alpaca fibers in all their soft luxury, Boccaccio has stepped up the design of this sought-after fiber with new colors, new styles, and new applications and accessories masterfully crafted by a team of Peruvian artisans. Boccaccio is proud to say, “I truly believe we have been a part of introducing Alpaca as a fashion item to the world.”
“Fun. Fashionable. Elegant,” is how Boccaccio wants everyone to feel in her Alpaca-inspired designs. Bringing this luxury item into popular demand has been a quest from the beginning. “I remember the feeling of seeing the Alpaca from my horse as a little girl. I want to share that mystical experience with everyone through Alpaca International.” With a fine-tuned commitment to quality, Alpaca International Inc. is poised to take this softy, downy fiber to new heights around the world.
When Zia Boccaccio-Cotgreave was a little girl growing up in Cusco, Peru her family took a trip to the Huayhuash mountain range outside of Ancash. While on a horseback ride through the mountains, Zia glimpsed an alpaca framed by the snow capped mountainous peaks.
The image would become the symbol of her future business, a venture that now spans five cities and two countries.
Her brand, Alpaca International, reflects Boccaccio’s savvy, sophistication and work ethic. It came to life in 2004 in Annapolis, subsequently after years of working in retail. When Steilmann, the retailer where she worked for 12 years closed in Washington DC, she had a decision to make.
“Do I find a new place to work, or start my own business?” Boccaccio asked herself. She took the risk and started a business of her own.
Her risk was rewarded and last year the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce named her flagship store on Main Street in Annapolis the Small Business of the Year. Twenty-five years after leaving her home in Cusco, she had achieved the American dream.
“It hit me as I walked onstage to accept the award,” Boccaccio says. “All of a sudden it became very clear to me. I realized I have come a long way. This has been my American dream.”
Boccaccio says that selling high quality products like alpaca gives her purpose. She could be selling any type of clothing, but she wanted to share something that was part of her culture and identity.
Alpacas, the lovable cousin to the llama, have been a powerful symbol of Andean civilization for thousands of years. During the Spanish conquest, the Incas salvaged a small number of the alpacas and moved them high into the Peruvian plateaus, where the camelids were able to thrive and continue producing the precious fibers.
She knew that the market for alpaca wool, which is hypoallergenic, naturally water-repellent, and soft to touch, was ready to be tapped into in the United States.
Opening New Doors
She was in Peru last week for Peru’s Fashion Week. She came to see the latest fashions, to continue finding the best designers to promote her brand, their designs, and Peruvian culture.
“This business is rewarding for me,” she told me after the Peru Moda Gift Show at the Jockey Club. “I want to share this part of my heritage.”
She also came to visit family and to visit her store in Cusco.
Boccaccio has been successful but not everything has come easily.
When Boccaccio opened her first store, she had planned on opening a new location every year. In three shorts years she had opened four retail shops: in Washington DC, Annapolis, Cusco, Peru, and Park City, Utah. However, the economic downturn forced her to scale back her intrepid ways. Yet, even in the adverse economic climate, she continues to expand her brand.
Her latest venture has been a new store in Juneau, Alaska. At first glance, you think ‘that’s a long way for alpaca to travel,’ but according to Boccaccio, upon closer inspection, there’s no better market for the Andean wool.
“Alpaca is well suited for Juneau’s climate,” she said. “ It’s durability, the sturdiness of the wool, which is a natural fiber, is very tailored for the climate in Alaska.”
Boccaccio might be alpaca wool’s biggest cheerleader. She’s made it her mission to spread the word about its advantages.
“For all purposes it is better than cashmere,” she says. “Cashmere is simply more well-know right now, but that’s going to change if I have anything to do with it.”
Boccaccio also lends a lot of her time to charitable events.
“For me it’s important to give back to the community,” she said. “To me, it’s a moral obligation.”
When Boccaccio reflects on her life thus far, she describes as an “amazing journey” that started with the dreams she had as a young girl in Peru.
“The idea for my store was an idea I always had in me,” she said. “It’s become the passion of my life.”
Written by Diego M. Ortiz of Peru This Week
Alpaca International owner Zia Boccaccio-Cotgreave brings her line of stylish alpaca wool products to downtown Juneau.
Boccaccio-Cotgreave had a vision when she was a little girl in Peru, of an alpaca silhouetted against a snow-capped mountain. This image now makes up the logo on her line of self-designed alpaca wool garments.
After moving to the United States, Boccaccio-Cotgreave got a job in the clothing world at a branch of the retailer Steilmann. She worked there 12 years until the shop closed.
Boccaccio-Cotgreave said it was then that she had a choice. “Find a new place to work, or start my own business,” Boccaccio-Cotgreave said. She decided to take the risk.
“This has been my American dream,” Boccaccio-Cotgreave said.
Boccaccio-Cotgreave founded Alpaca International in 2004. Three years later, she owns four locations in two countries — she also has shops in Maryland, Washington D.C., Utah and Cusco, Peru. Juneau is Boccaccio-Cotgreave’s most recent location.
She spent a month preparing the location on Admiral Way, next to the Harley Davidson shop and the Red Dog Saloon. The spot was in rough shape.
“I was told it was an eyesore,” Boccaccio-Cotgreave said.
Boccaccio-Cotgreave said she wanted her location to be separate from the main strip of shops on Franklin Street. Her hope to make her shop a year-round destination for visitors and Juneau locals shaped her decision.
Alpacas come in two types, the short-and curly-haired Huacaya and the long-haired Suri, according to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association website goo.gl/Ip5tE. The 100- to 200-pound animal looks like a small llama and is part of the camelidae family. Its wool comes naturally in a variety of at least 20 colors, and combinations thereof.
“The animals themselves are absolutely beautiful,” Boccaccio-Cotgreave said. “They’re cuddly, they’re absolutely beautiful.” They were considered a staple of the Incan nobility in Peru, she said.
The Huacaya is the type best suited to woven fabrics, Boccaccio-Cotgreave. The Suri, which only appears every other generation, is used for its hide after death, she said.
Alpaca wool is environmentally friendly, Boccaccio-Cotgreave said, because the fabric can replace the warmth of two layers of another.
Alpaca wool is well suited for Juneau’s climate, Boccaccio-Cotgreave said. Though not her first example of the wool’s qualities, there was one standout.
“It is almost waterproof,” Boccaccio-Cotgreave said.
Boccaccio-Cotgreave said alpaca is “feather-weight,” however “the durability of alpaca, the sturdiness of the wool, a natural fiber, it is very tailor-made for the climate of Alaska.”
The fiber has “unusual thermal qualities” that hold in body heat and, as a hollow fiber, wicks moister and holds died colors for centuries,” Boccaccio-Cotgreave said.
The Peruvian designer also has plans to create wool pieces to meet the styles preferred by locals.
Boccaccio-Cotgreave is working the floor of her shop this summer gather ideas about local tastes.
“I noticed that hoods are really important here,” Boccaccio-Cotgreave said. “We are going to make a line that resonates with the lifestyle of Alaska.”
And though a wool, Boccaccio-Cotgreave said, alpaca is not itchy.
For all purposes it is a better investment than cashmere,” Boccaccio-Cotgreave said. Cashmere is simply more well known, she said – something Boccaccio-Cotgreave plans to remedy.
Boccaccio-Cotgreave owns her own label and her business manufactures its own garments, she said. She said she employs Peruvian craftsmen to decorate her clothing with stylized designs she created from patterns found of Peruvian pottery and textiles. “
Shawls, capes, coats and sweaters anchor Boccaccio-Cotgreave’s collection. She also carries alpaca hats, gloves and scarves.
Written by Russell Stigall of Juneau Empire