Why buy alpaca or vicuña?
Alpaca and Vicuña fibers (we do not call it wool) are warm and lightweight. Both are stronger and more durable and softer than mohair, silk, cashmere or sheep's wool. These exquisite fibers are resistant to pilling and will not shrink if you give them the proper care. Alpaca fiber is also hypoallergenic and naturally water-repellent.
Vicuña, Alpaca Suri, Alpaca - what is the difference?
These are all animals of the same camelid family. Alpacas and Vicuñas are native to Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. In recent years, the alpaca has also been introduced in the United States, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Vicuña is a smaller cousin of the Alpacas and produces only about one pound of its extremely soft fiber a year. The high price tag for garments made out of Vicuña fiber is due to the quality of the fiber in combination to its very limited availability. Because the Vicuña is a protected animal, all products containing any percentage of Vicuña fiber must require an exit visa issued by the Peruvian government.
Alpaca Suri, also known as Royal Alpaca, is the most rare among the alpacas. In Peru, where the population of alpacas is the highest in the world, Suris still account for only about 7% of the alpaca population. Its fiber is considered the best fiber among the Alpacas and second in quality only to the Vicuña. Garments made with this fiber tend to be higher in price, because of the limited supply. In ancient Peruvian times this fiber was used exclusively by the Royal Incas.
The Huacaya Alpaca (commonly referred to as simply ‘Alpaca’) is the most common among the alpacas. Its fiber is warm and lightweight. It is stronger and more durable and softer than mohair, silk, cashmere or sheep's wool. This exquisite fiber is resistant to pilling and will not shrink if you give the proper care. Alpaca fiber is also hypoallergenic and naturally water-repellent. The adult alpaca will produce only about 10 pounds of fiber per year. Because of the limited supply, in combination with other fiber qualities (hypoallergenic, superior strength and durability) the cost of an alpaca garment is still high compared to other garments made of wool or cashmere.
How do you measure fiber quality?
Fiber quality is measured in microns (a standard of measurement used to determine fiber's density). The quality of alpaca fiber can range from 17 to 40 microns. The lower the micron count, the finer the fleece. The finer the fleece, the higher the quality of the fiber. The quality of alpaca fiber ranges from the highest quality Suri and Premium Baby (lowest count at under 19 microns), Baby Alpaca (19-23 microns), SuperFine (23-25) to Alpaca (26-28 microns).
Why the difference in price among alpaca products?
The price of the garments depends on the type, quality AND percentage of alpaca fiber used in its production. A product made of 100% Alpaca Suri will be more expensive than a product made of 100% Baby Alpaca. A product made of 100% Baby Alpaca will be more expensive than a product made of 100% Alpaca or a product made of an Alpaca blend. Every one of our products is marked with the correct percentage and quality of alpaca.
I’m still confused! How do I know if I'm getting what I pay for?
As with everything else, educate yourself about alpacas (you are doing that now!) and shop around. If the quality AND percentage of alpaca fiber is not listed as part of the description of your favorite garment, ask the seller or look elsewhere. If you see a product described as ‘Alpaca Sweater’ or ‘Alpaca Scarf’, but when you look at the product details, there is no mention of the quality (Suri, Baby, Alpaca) or percentage of alpaca used in the product, ask the seller or look elsewhere. It is also important for you to determine if the garment is an alpaca blend or 100% alpaca (in an effort to produce a cheaper garment, companies sometimes blend alpaca with acrylic or other inexpensive fibers. These garments, although more affordable, are considered of lower quality because they do not fully retain the amazing fiber attributes that made Alpaca the fiber of choice for the Royal Inca.
Unfortunately, sometimes it is difficult to determine quality when you shop online. Sometimes the ‘touch test’ is the best way to determine quality. A product may be listed as having 100% alpaca, but if the product comes from an older animal, the fibers are coarse. I keep a good example of ‘old 100% alpaca’ in my store. When my customers feel the fiber, they have a better understanding of the difference in alpaca quality available out there. Good alpaca quality is not inexpensive. That is why it is so important for me to travel to Peru and talk to the providers…. Like wine… some years have better productions than others!
Are the Alpacas harmed?
NO, Alpacas are not harmed for their fiber. They usually get sheared once a year.
Tell me more about Alpacas -
Alpacas are beautiful animals. Each animal has its own personality and temperament. We have alpacas visit our store a few times once a year and each time at least one customer inquires about having alpacas as pets! (Unfortunately, these animals are herd animals. Just one as a pet won’t do). They are lovable animals and love attention!
I have allergies. Will I be able to wear Alpaca?
Alpaca and Vicuña are hypoallergenic! Most people who cannot wear wool (because of allergies or they feel itchy with wool against their skin) find that they can easily wear Alpaca garments if they are made out of 100% alpaca. We display the composition on each of our product pages. If unsure, please contact us - we will be happy to help you!
I want my new garment to last many years- How do I take care of it?
With proper care, Alpaca garments will last many years. Just hand wash in cold water and a mild liquid detergent (baby shampoo or a fine fiber solvent will work. Regular laundry detergent or soap can be too harsh for the alpaca fiber). You may also STEAM clean your garment. The chemicals used in dry cleaning ruin the natural oils in the fiber. Make sure you speak to your dry cleaner to ensure they will only steam clean your garment.
Where are the garments made?
All the garments we sell are imported from Peru. I visit my home country every year, visit new regions and meet new providers to bring the best quality and fashions to my customers. We deal with providers who work with the most demanding markets in the world.
I also make sure they conduct fair trade, spending time with their employees and making sure they are treated with respect and that they are provided appropriate benefits.
Do you accept returns?
YES, we are happy to take returns . Our goal is for every customer who gets a garment from Alpaca Suri to be 100 % satisfied. I am very proud to say that when a customer is looking for a perfect present for a special loved one, I TAKE IT VERY SERIOUSLY and spend the time to find the right garment ( color, sizes, etc). Please visit our Return Policy page for more details.
Do you ship outside USA?
Absolutely! Once we receive your order and calculate shipping costs, we will contact you via email with detailed shipping costs. Once you approve shipping costs (via email) your credit card will be charged and your order shipped.
Why are alpaca throws the 'perfect gift'?
Because this alpaca throw is warm, luxurious, hypoallergenic, naturally water repellent, AND may be embroidered with your message, this is one of the items that makes a perfect present for any occasion. It is our bestseller gift (weddings, baby shower, special birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, Christmas, house warming, etc) and the blanket/throw of choice for home designers and decorators. Customers who receive one of our throws as a gift usually come back for more! The alpaca throw is a one-fit-all gift, all you have to do is decide on the color!
What is the big deal with the alpaca socks and mittens?
Alpaca socks are the warmest socks you can buy. Once my New England customers get a pair of baby alpaca socks or mittens they cannot wear anything else. My customers say it is the only thing that keeps them warm and dry! These alpaca mittens and socks are perfect for those who love outdoors activities (regardless of weather) but also great for staying warm inside the hockey rink.
How do you handle corporate gifts?
We very work closely with you to choose the best item for your corporate gift. Repeat business is our best indicator of our Corporate customer satisfaction. For example, in 2008 a customer ordered 440 sweaters for a golf tournament. They were so very pleased they re-ordered more sweaters two years later. The logo was very discreet but at the same time a great advertisement for their company. Our customer was very pleased seeing his customers and employees wearing their corporate sweater all the time. They could see the sweater looked like new after many years and considered their purchase a great investment!
Tell me more about your store and CUSTOMER SERVICE-
When I opened Alpaca Suri in 2003, it was a challenge to sell a product that not too many customers were familiar with. Looking back now, it is very rewarding to see customers coming back looking for the special garments that keeps them warm during our New England winters!
Since day one great customer service has been our first priority! We will give you the same attention when you shop online or visit our store in Hingham, Massachusetts. If you can’t find what your are looking for online, please use the ‘Contact Us’ page. We can help you to find what you are looking for by sending you pictures or customizing your order.
Tell me more about your Charity work
Customers are always pleased to hear that a portion of every sale goes a long way to help different charities in Peru and our local community. Please check out our About Charities page for more information. I thoroughly enjoy this part of my business. For me, it is a way to say ‘thanks!’ to the country who makes Alpaca Suri a possibility and to OUR CUSTOMERS for making us a successful boutique!
If you have any other questions please visit our Contact Us page and drop us a line.
We welcome all comments and questions.