ALPACA VS CASHEMERE
Cashmere comes from Asian countries and has been used for centuries. At the beginning the goats came from India and then, as it became known expanded to China and Mongolia. Cashmere is considered to be a luxury fiber from which many items can be made including sweaters and scarfs. However, its status began to change in the 1990’s when China began to use it in mass production, devaluating the fiber from luxury to mainstream. Nowadays, garments made from cashmere’s fiber can be found almost everywhere and at a moderate price.
On the other hand we have alpacas. Alpacas come from South America, specifically Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina, with Peru being the largest producer off alpaca fiber. Alpaca fiber, like cashmere, is used to create luxury products, and there are many stores out there that sell them at a moderate price, however alpaca fiber has remained rarer than Cashmere.
Characteristics of the wool
Cashmere is a very luxury fiber. Some people have said it is more appropriate to called cashmere hair rather than wool due to its thin texture. Cashmere is finer, stronger, lighter, softer, and approximately three times more insulating than sheep wool.
Alpaca fiber is also considered very luxurious, but is slightly softer, lighter and warmer than cashmere thanks to it longer fibers. One very important characteristic of Alpaca fiber is that it has no lanolin. Lanolin is the wax or oil which makes the sheep’s wool waterproof for the animal. The absence of lanolin in alpaca fiber means it is hypoallergenic (causes fewer allergic reactions). Moreover, alpaca fiber is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite. Another great quality is that it pills less than cashmere and imperceptible if compared with wool. Did you know that…..The Inca’s valued alpaca fiber more than gold? This is not surprising to anyone who has cozied a garment made from alpaca wool.
The widespread ubiquity of cashmere is no longer sustainable. There are approximately 450 million cashmere goats worldwide. This mass production and demand has not only affected the quality of the fiber, but also the quality of life for the goats, as well as people who raise them. Grasslands in China cannot support the number of goats required to keep stores stocked. Moreover, the hoof of the goat is sharp and it tends to damage the ground, this added to the volume of goats are turning the grasslands into icy deserts where no enough grass is growing to feed the goats. The demand for cashmere skyrocketed within the last two decades, however, the price and the quality has decreased a lot. You can buy a sweater at Uniqio for less than €50. Further, due to the increased supply a lot of these sweaters are of substandard quality. They are less soft, and more likely to pill (and what’s the point of buying a fancy sweater if it’s going to look and feel cheap?).
Mongolia is the second largest provider of cashmere behind China. The cashmere population in Mongolia has quadrupled from 5 million to 20 million between 1990 and 2009. Factors such as this overpopulation, and the fact that the majority of those goats reside in high plains that are susceptible to extreme cold, have contributed to the reduced quality of the cashmere fiber.
On the other hand there are alpacas, which have an estimate population of just 4 million. The environmental footprint of an alpaca is far lighter than a cashmere goat’s—literally Alpacas live largely in highlands of the Peruvian Andes, for now a less fragile ecosystem, where their soft, padded feet are gentle on the terrain and they graze without destroying root systems.
The alpaca fiber is a very dazzling material as the cashmere is, however, it last longer. Alpacas are also more efficient than goats. An alpaca drinks less water than a goats and can easily grow enough wool for four or five sweaters in a year. It takes four goats the same amount of time to produce sufficient cashmere for a single sweater (according to the Natural Resources Defence Council). Take it this way, it takes 20 goats to produce what just one alpaca produce. How is this possible? We are still not made aware of this when buying cashmere. We buy it because it is a luxury item, it is a soft garment… blah blah blah. But we know nothing behind that market, so try to be more conscious next time and ask your store more about it.
So next time you buy a wool garment, think twice about it, there are many other alternatives out there. If you can, buy a luxury, soft, beautiful, warm, hypoallergenic garment made from alpaca yay! do it :).