Luxury Vicuna Wool: The Soft Gold of Andalean Mountains

by | May 1, 2024

Vicuna wool resembles the softness of clouds. It comes from a deer-like wild animal also called vicuna. Although they are more like long-neck deer, more related to camels. 

Harvesting Vicuna wool is a real-life treasure hunt. It includes climbing high altitudes. Chasing the jet-fast vicunas. And capturing to carefully trim the wool. It seems easier to grow your own fur than harvest vicunas. 

Jokes apart, vicuna wool is the finest wool in the entire green-blue planet. The vicuna wool is measured in microns. The wool we wear in the winter is usually between 20-30 microns. While vicuna has a remarkable thinness of 13 microns!

The finest wool also results in the warmest, and lightest clothes. Those are perfect for luxury winter clothes!

We are Team Muslin Dhaka. A group of fashion designers, and fabric experts. We love to work with luxury fabrics. With 37 years of cumulative experience, we are presenting our insights and findings about vicuna to the world.

Let’s begin!

What is Vicuna wool and Why special

Vicuna wool comes from the fur of the alpaca family camelid vicuna. It roams wild in the high altitudes of the Andean mountains.  Vicunas are found in the wide Altiplano region, including Bolivia, Peru, and northern Argentina.

To survive harsh cold weather and freezing nightfall, the vicunas grow the finest wool in the world.

Vicuna wool is almost 5 times thinner than human hair. It comes in a rich golden and grayish-white color. The Incas called it the golden cloth.

The extreme thinness makes it the most insulative fabric in the world. The fabric has always been regarded as a luxury item throughout history. (more on the history part)

What’s so special about vicuna wool, you could ask. As it is undeniably thin, it’s remarkably soft too. But how does the thinness of wool contribute to its warmth? An example might help you get the answer. 

The wool cloth keeps you warm. Because it creates tiny air pockets between each wool strand. Let’s say you have a woolen sock that has 1000 wool strands (just for example). The wool strands will create a certain number of air pockets that will insulate your feet. 

But if you have a similar-sized vicuna wool sock, it will contain more than twice the wool fiber you regularly wear (as it is thinner). The more wool strands, the more air pockets. And more air pockets will lead to more comfort and insulation. 

There is another notable thing about Vicuna wool. A thin vicuna cloth can trap heat quite efficiently. Its delicate wool fibers create a compact formation for heat insulation.   

Let’s go through a quick summary of vicuna fabric.

Industrial NameVicuna
OriginPeru, Bolivia, 
Other NamesVicuña (in Spanish)
ConstructionProcessed and spun into yarn. Then woven into fabric.
WeightVery light
ColorDeep rich golden.
InsulationExcellent.
StretchNo
Shrinkage RatioNo
UsageSweater, shawl, scarf, jackets and winter dresses.

 

Vicuna wool History

A Brief History of Vicuna Fabric

Vicuna wool has been around for thousands of years. But the first trace is found in the Inca period (13-16th century). In that time vicuna and vicuna wool were considered secret. The Inca rulers also made it strictly prohibited to kill vicuna or wear vicuna wool. Only royal Inca people could hunt and wear Vicuna wool. At that time millions of vicuna used to roam around the wilderness of Andalean.

The trade revolution was a turning point for Vicunas. French companies came to the region in 1532. They were really impressed by the quality of this wool. French merchants started trading the wool with the rest of the world. It ultimately put the animals in real danger.

The vicunas were so badly hunted, there were only 6000 of them in 1974. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) listed vicuna as the most endangered species in 1975. Vicuna-containing countries set and made serious decisions to save the species. Thanks to the protection policies and international interference. Due to several protection activities now vicunas’ number bounced back to 350,000. Present day, Vicunas must be carefully harvested without harming them.

Those steps lead us to a really good position. Now vicunas are living freely in the wild and also their fur contributes to the fashion industry with economic development. Still, it is a rare luxury item in the fashion and fabric industry. Only about 12 tons of vicuna wool is produced each year. There is no magical way to increase it. Whereas the demand is rising continuously around the world.

How is Vicuna made? Why is it so expensive?

An adult vicuna produces 0.5 kilograms of fine wool. Once every two years! Yes, the harvesting time is that long. That is why the process is very slow. But that’s not even close to the hard part of getting it.

Vicunas run at a speed of 50 kilometers per hour in the high rocky barren grasslands. There are certain communities who have permission to harvest it. The must-follow rule of the game is, you must catch them without any harm. Previously it was really hard to catch them this way. But the use of motorbikes and other mini vehicles makes it easier now. 

The vicunas must be trimmed carefully as they are very delicate animals. It takes months of preparation for a community to trap a good herd of vicunas.

After getting the vicuna wool, the wool has to be sorted and removed impurities. There are machines for the job, but the result is a lot better with human touch. After processing, yarn is produced from the wool. And from yarn, luxury fabric is woven. 

Those are some of the reasons for its sky-high price. But there are more! There are high taxes and vats over vicuna products as it is super rare. Vicuna wool can be priced at about 400$ per KG. But it can easily become 6000$-32000$ in the overseas brand shops as luxury garments. 

Characteristics of Vicuna fabric

Characteristics of Vicuna fabric

Now let’s dig a bit deep into the characteristics of vicuna fabric.

Appearance

Vicuna fabric’s signature color is a rich golden. The color matches the wild vicunas. But it’s a bit lighter. Wild vicuna have a white and deep golden color. Mixing those two, vicuna wool fabrics get a lighter golden brown color. The fabric has a shiny and exotic outlook. 

Vicuna fabrics are rarely dyed. Vicuna wool’s natural colors are reserved for a more organic appearance. Vicuna wool fibers are also weak to various chemicals.  

Softness

The softness of vicuna wool is comparable with very few fabrics. It’s softer than a down feather and comes with a remarkable feel. Its coziness and comfort are supreme. It is hard to imagine unless you touch it. Most other soft fabrics tend to damage easily. They also do not last long. But Vicuna is very durable with its amazing softness.

Yarn quality

The quality of vicuna wool yarn may differ. The higher grade hand-processed wool makes better quality yarn. Those yarn are used for more expensive fabrics. However, even normal-quality Vicuna fabrics can work almost the same as high-quality ones.

Vicuna Yarn

Breathability

Vicuna fabric is not meant to be super breathable. It excelled in its comfort and insulation. However, it can pass some amount of air to stop overheating. The texture of the fabric also does not cause any discomfort because of its high insulation.

Heat Absorption

Vicuna fabric absorbs and retains a bit of heat. Take that as its advantage, as most of the time it’s used in the winter. But sometimes it can overheat in the sun. In that case, you can simply remove your vicuna shawl or sweater. 

Stretch

Vicuna fabric does not stretch very much. But it usually contains a bit of stretch (especially sweaters) so you can wear it and remove it comfortably. The stretch also depends on how the fabric is woven. Other materials can be infused to increase its stretch, but people tend to prefer the original and pure vicuna.

Water absorption

Vicuna fabric can absorb a lot of water. But you should think twice (preferably more times) before soaking it in water. Remove your vicuna if it’s raining or if you are eating. 

Transparency

Vicuna fabric is not transparent. It comes with a nice and deep cinnamon-brown color. 

Shrinkage

Vicuna wool does not shrink mostly. It is often very well made and processed. It retains shape and size for a long time. If you handle it with care, it should be ok.

Durability

Vicuna fabric is quite long-lasting. It can take twenty thousand bends without much damage. It also needs nice, cool, and dry storage. This way you can keep it healthy for decades. And maybe it’s unique enough to pass the fabric to the next generation!

Color retention

Vicuna fabric comes with its natural cinnamon brown or golden color. The color is completely organic. It’s very unlikely to get any color damage in your vicuna. Just keep in mind that it’s sensitive to chemicals.

Vicuna & Sustainability

Vicuna wool and sustainability

After silk, if there is any eco friendly fabric, that is wool. Vicuna wool is also environment friendly. But it must be collected in the right way. Harvesting vicuna does not cause any harm to the animal, and they are ideally harvested during the last part of the winter. 

The production process of vicuna wool is very organic. No chemical is used, zero percent carbon footprint, no abuse of land and water. 

Plus, a part of the money that comes from vicuna wool is used to protect vicuna and other wild species of the area. They are like the robinhood of the Andalusian, both for nature and humans. Don’t forget about the economy too.

But remember, when it comes to sustainability, expensive luxury fabric barely harms the environment compared to industrial garments. Not even one percent. We should focus on the sides that are damaging more. 

So, vicuna fabric is quite sustainable for the earth. 

Uses of Vicuna wool

Usually, the wool is traded mostly to the luxury fashion hub. From France, Italy to other countries around the world. 

Some of the vicuna clothes are made by local weavers of Peru and Bolivia. But that’s not very pricey, as the best price comes when vicuna wool is exported.

Vicuna wool is kind of similar to baby cashmere wool, but one of the rarest & can not be farmed.

Vicuna fabric is mostly used for:

  • luxury winter dresses,
  • Sweaters, 
  • Shawls, 
  • Coats, 
  • Jackets, 
  • Scarves, 
  • Hand gloves,
  • Socks, 
  • And many other cozy garments.

The advantages and disadvantages of Vicuna fabric

Let’s summarize the pros and cons of Vicuna fabric in points.

Advantages

  • Best among any wool product. 
  • Excellent warmth and insulation.
  • Thin Vicuna fabric works as well as thick wool.
  • Lightweight and soft texture 
  • Permanent rich golden brown color.
  • Super durable.
  • Symbol of exclusive fashion, taste, and wealth.

Disadvantages

  • Usually need a dry wash
  • Prone to chemical damage
  • Hard to care

Vicuna wool

Vicuna wool vs Baby Cashmere

Vicuna and baby cashmere are made of the thinnest wool in the world. But they have some notable differences. 

Vicuna has 13 microns thickness and baby cashmere has 13.5 microns. But the main difference is their feel. Baby cashmere feels uniquely smooth, and slippery. 

Vicuna is also soft, smooth, and comfortable. But it lacks a slippery texture. Vicuna is usually warmer than cashmere fabric.

Cashmere is less expensive as one can farm it. But the yearly production of vicuna wool is limited. It’s what makes Vicuna more expensive than cashmere.

How to care for Vicuna fabric?

Vicuna fabric is sensitive to some factors. So, I suggest taking care of vicuna seriously. 

No worries though. Just keep a few things in mind and care accordingly. 

Here some tips:

  • A dry wash is the safest for it. 
  • Don’t keep it in the sun, vicuna hates the sun. 
  • Do not fold, hang. If you want to fold it, place tissue paper on the fold.
  • Hand washing is possible. Use mild and organic washing powder.
  • Keep in a dry and dark place.

Vicuna by the yard

Some luxury brands sell vicuna fabric by the yard. The Alpaca Collection is one of the top sellers of Vicuna. Don’t expect them to be less expensive. One yard of premium vicuna fabric is 3900$ or so in Alpaca Collections.

Where can you buy Vicuna?

Alpaca collection, Loro Piana, TallulahInHollywood, and Lam Lam shop are some of the best brands for vicuna fabric. You may also find a few smart collections on  Etsy. But I would say, choose the brand shops to get the highest quality, design and other aspects.

FAQ

Is vicuna itchy?

Nope, almost the opposite. It is very natural, and will not cause itching. Not even those who have allergies.

Is Vicuna wool ethical?

Yeah! Vicuna wool production is done with very humane methods and ethically. Especially if you buy from brand shops. It is cruelty free.

Is vicuña wool waterproof?

Tightly-woven vicuna wool fabrics are waterproof. Still, you shouldn’t wet this. Luxury fabrics like vicuna should be used carefully. 

Conclusion

Vicunas are majestic creatures.  The wool they produce is outer-worldly. We definitely use the most expensive fabric like vicuna wool for our fashion. But we also believe vicunas are more precious than their luxury wool. So, we must keep them protected for the rest of the entirety.

 

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!

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