There is nothing quite as cuddly and comforting as an Alpaca hat, or a pair of Alpaca wool socks to keep your tootsies warm in the wintertime. Alpaca clothing in the UK is becoming more fashionable year on year, but just like cashmere, you should be aware of what the labels mean and where the wool comes from.
At BeALPACA we're always looking out for our suppliers in Peru and our customers in the UK. So here we'll give you a guide on what to look out for when you buy Alpaca clothing:
- what to look for on the labels.
- how you can best help the industry stay healthy.
- help the local Alpaca breeders to keep their industry sustainable.
- and most of all, how to get the best quality wool too!
Is it ecological?
Alpaca are similar to sheep in that they are sheared for their wool, for the Alpaca breeders this is the most profitable product as it is harvested yearly, usually in spring. It is then sold on to clothing manufacturers around the world.
The Alpaca graze on pastures in the high Andes and the local breeders have lived off this export for generations. Due to the harsh environment, Alpaca frequently die during the cold winters and their bodies are used for their fur to make more durable clothing such as shoes and hats.
There is some contention in the UK that they are slaughtered for their fur, though this is simply not the case. Due to the number of Alpaca that die through the winter, the fur industry is sustainable, and most importantly, it is in the interest of the breeders that the Alpaca stay alive for their wool which is the most profitable product for them.
Is it the right price?
When you buy alpaca clothing in the UK, you can be more sure that the Alpaca have been bred in the Andes and the wool will be of a better quality than cashmere. The Cashmere industry took off fifteen years ago and the prices have steadily risen over this time. It is only recently that Alpaca wool has become such a popular product and although prices are rising in a similar way, it is still cheap in relation to Cashmere, and every bit as super-soft and warm.
Cashmere wool has started to be mass-produced on eye-watering scales (there are 450 million cashmere goats around the world), some cashmere wool garments use only a fraction of the smaller down-like fibre necessary to attach the "cashmere" label. This means that the less you pay for a cashmere sweater, the more likely it will be made from lower quality fibres.
Alpaca wool has been taken on by some of the major fashion houses due to its great qualities and the lower prices, the fibres are similar to Cashmere and are incredibly fine, measured in thousandths of a millimetre. So although you will find both Alpaca and cashmere wool garments at similar prices, the Alpaca wool clothes will be of a better quality.
What should I look for on the label?
The labelling on Alpaca clothing in the UK can give you some tips to getting the best quality. In EU legislation, the wording "pure wool" can only be attached of the wool all comes from the same animal, so you won't be getting a blend of various animals, which are usually lower quality fibres used for cost saving. Mixed fibres have to be labelled as such by law, so you might see a label stating 25% mixed fibres, 75% wool. This is because those mixed fibres are usually waste or reclaimed fibres, probably also including some synthetic fibres.
A little more information on Alpaca wool labelling. If you want the best quality Alpaca wool, look for "100% Alpaca wool" labelling, this is a help, but not a guarantee. It is sad that legislation only requires 30% of Alpaca wool to achieve this label, but on the whole, Alpaca clothing manufacturers use 100% sourced Alpaca wool, and although some manufacturers may not, the only way to really test this is through analysis.
Does it have a guarantee?
Before you buy you alpaca garment, be sure to check for a guarantee. Most online shops have a returns policy for 14 days, but as many suppliers do not come from the UK, their returns policies might not be what you are used to seeing from UK retailers.
Where can I shop for Alpaca clothing in the UK?
The best quality clothing is found online, as most of these garments come directly from Peru. Alpaca clothing in the UK is becoming more popular and an industry is developing, meaning better profits for the local people in Peru. Our own garments are understated garments that bring Alpaca wool into the modern fashion industry. You can find and purchase all of our garments in our online shop, and in wintertime there is nothing quite as sumptuous and snug as an alpaca poncho!