Vicuñas are closely related to llamas and alpacas but are much smaller and have exceptionally fine and soft wool. They are found in the high alpine areas of the Andes.
Prior to the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, the Incas prized vicuña wool and considered it to be a coat of pure gold. Only Royalty had the privilege of wearing this wool, even though the millions of Vicuñas roamed the Andes at that time.
When the Spanish arrived in the Americas it was only a matter of time before they saw the value in the “New world Silk” of the Vicuñas. Unlike the Incas who adored the Animal, the Conquistadors hunted the vicuña and killed it for their wool instead of simply shearing their coats. Over the next few Centuries human poaching saw a drastic decline in population.
In the 1960’s there were only 6000 Vicuñas roaming the in Peru, and in 1974 the species was considered endangered. A conservation effort by the Peruvian government and the implementation of a National reserve for the Vicuna called Pampa Galeras in the Andean region has seen their number bounce back to 200,000. Vicuñas are today protected by strict conservation laws, and their numbers are limited in the wild. This rarity contributes to the exclusivity and high cost of vicuña wool products.
Vicuña wool is renowned for its exceptionally fine and soft fibres and is considered one of the most luxurious natural fiber's in the world. The fiber's are incredibly fine, measuring around 12 microns in diameter, which is even finer than cashmere which measure 15 microns.
A process known as “chuka” is used instead of traditional shearing. “Chuka” involves carefully removing the fleece form the neck and shoulders, and this work is carried out by the indigenous communities in the Andes.
The super-soft, fine, and resilient wool has been coveted for decades globally. From Incan royalty to the world's top fashion brands, such as Brioni, Dormeuil, Loro Piana, and Zegna, all using vicuña fabric in their collections.
Vicuña wool is considered one of the most exclusive and expensive natural fiber's in the world. The limited supply, labor-intensive harvesting process, and high demand from luxury fashion brands contribute to its high cost.