Known as the “Fabric of the Gods” in the Inca Empire, alpaca fiber was considered a symbol of high social status and a greatly desired commodity. Peruvian alpaca wool is rarer than cashmere. Llamas, alpacas, huanacos, and vicuñas were domesticated thousands of years ago by the ancient Peruvians. The larger, more durable llama was used as a beast of burden while the smaller, fluffy alpaca was solely used for its prized fiber. Alpaca is extremely fine and actually hollow, producing a soft, lightweight, and insulating fiber that is still an integral part of Andean life today. It is also lanolin-free therefore hypoallergenic.
There are two types of alpaca: Huyacaya (which produce a dense, soft, crimpy fiber), and the Suri (with silky pencil-like locks, similar to dreadlocks but without matted fibers). “Baby Alpaca” refers to the softest first clippings of alpaca sheering, and the hollow fiber holds dyes more effectively than most other fibers, producing some of the softest and brightly decorated clothing in the world. Alpacas’ natural coats offer 40+ color shades—ranging from ivory to black, to gray and brown tones.