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Alpaca vs Cashmere - How to Choose

Perilla Alpaca Throws - more colours

When you think of a luxury sweater, wrap or pair of bed socks you probably think that cashmere is the most luxurious.  But there are many reasons why you should consider alpaca in the same way.

Like cashmere, alpaca is a natural fibre that looks and feels luxurious, and it can be equally, if not more, durable.  Both are hypoallergenic as they contain no lanolin, both can be supremely soft, but there are substantial differences.

Perilla premium cashmere wrap

1.  Not all cashmere is created equal
Cashmere is historically the favourite as the most luxurious yarn of all. The manufacturing process is very specific, the fabric has to contain fibres from the undercoat of a specific breed of goat and the fibres have to have a certain measurement.

With the mass production of cashmere from countries such as China it has started to become perceived as less luxurious, so now there are two price levels, the expensive pricing of premium cashmere and its cheaper sister, where you can pick up a sweater for less than £100.  Don't think you're getting the same're not.

2.  Alpaca is Rarer than Cashmere
There are an estimated 4 million alpacas worldwide.  Compare this with around 450 million cashmere goats.  

Although alpaca fibre had been used by Peruvians for centuries it was not well know here, but because of the glut of cheaper cashmere it has now becoming the new fibre of choice for many mainstream fashion designers.  This is a great leap for a fibre that was once called 'the poor man's cashmere'.

You'll find cashmere at every price level by just about every brand, you're unlikely to find alpaca that easily although it can be just as soft, pills less and can last longer.  It is also much softer than 'cheap' cashmere

Alpaca Bed Socks
3.  Alpaca garments are often less expensive than cashmere
Taking the two price levels of cashmere, alpaca, because it has less of a premium name is almost always going to be less expensive than the highest quality cashmere (although as demand increases that may not last) and sits well above mass produced cashmere.

4.  When you buy an alpaca yarn garment you're buying into something that is not yet mainstream but about to be, as alpaca wool is now being taken up by designers such as Armani, Max Mara and Loro Piana.

5.  Alpacas live in the wild, mainly in the Andes of Peru, while cashmere goats are bred on a massive scale in countries such as Mongolia and China.

6. Second only to silk for strength, alpaca is comparable to the luxurious softness of cashmere yet more durable and far more hard wearing than both. It has a unique feel to it and seems softer to actually wear than to touch. A lot of the strength comes from the fact that the staple (length of the fibres) are longer in alpaca than sheep and goats.

Both cashmere and alpaca are luxurious fibres, beautifully soft and warm and hypoallergenic (lanolin free). Garments made from cashmere can have wildly different prices and be of very different quality because of the disparity in production.  Alpaca garments are normally of very high quality - so far there is no 'cheap' alpaca. 

The only problem with alpaca going forward is that because of the rarity of the alpacas themselves, and the fact that alpaca wool is starting to be used by top level couturiers, this may start sending the prices up.

We source our alpaca fibre from Peru, and the yarn is knitted and dyed in the UK.  

Our cashmere scarves and wraps at Perilla are made of the finest grade of 100% Himalayan cashmere available, woven on hand looms by artisans in Nepal to the highest possible standards. The exquisite diamond weave can be clearly seen.  If you feel a cheaper version you'll find it feels totally different.