Ninety-five percent of the alpaca fiber in the world has one source: the high Andes in Peru.
“Alpacas are an important legacy of my ancestors,” says Zia Boccaccio-De La Vega, the founder and CEO of Alpaca International. “It has been a dream to introduce the noble alpaca fiber to the American market as a fashion statement.”
Alpaca fiber has long been known as the gold of the Andes. Zia remembers being captivated with the animals when she was young. Since then, she’s dedicated her life to learning about alpaca, supporting Peruvian farmers who harvest their fiber in sustainable ways, and designing luxury clothing products to share with the world.
Each year, Zia returns to her home country to source the very best baby alpaca fiber in the industry. According to Zia, an alpaca can produce roughly five-and-a-half pounds of fiber once it has been sorted, cleaned, treated, and dyed. The average sweater weighs one-and-a-half pounds, meaning each alpaca can produce only three to four sweaters per year. As a result, many vendors mix the alpaca with acrylic and other synthetic fibers to reduce their costs, a choice that compromises the natural and unique qualities of the alpaca.
“As a Peruvian, it is a great responsibility and a core philosophy of my company to give our clients the best quality alpaca possible … Sometimes people have to buy a new jacket every couple of years because they grow old and lose their quality — our jackets and coats last a lifetime,” Zia says proudly.
During her time in Peru, Zia gets to spend time with her team of local knitters, tailors, designers, and artisans to create and produce the season’s collections.
“Each product you see in my store has a team who specializes in making it. We don’t have manufacturing lines mass producing our different collections, we have real people working on the products every step along the way. Our hats, gloves, and scarves are all handmade. The finishing touches on the bigger items are also done by hand,” she explains.
“Alpaca fibers have qualities that no other material on earth can boast. Alpacas really are a gift to us from God,” Zia says with a heartwarming smile. Alpaca fiber is extremely soft, hypoallergenic, water repellant, and environmentally friendly. Zia explains that it is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool and because of the fibers’ hollow core, the color and luster stays vibrant longer. “It doesn’t ball up, wrinkle, or crease — cashmere and merino wool do not have these components. Alpaca is superior to all the alternative high-quality fibers and products,” Zia explains.
Alpaca International has three locations in the United States — one in Annapolis, Maryland; one in Juneau, Alaska; and one in Park City. Zia opened the store in Park City after she fell in love with the town and decided it was the perfect place to introduce alpaca to the ski and snowboard community. While lesser-known than merino wool and other base layer materials, alpaca socks, hats, gloves, and sweaters are perfect for skiing and outdoor recreation. In addition, the Park City shop showcases one of the most elegant and high-fashion collections of alpaca coats.
“Alpaca is truly a special product that needs a special place in the fashion and garment industry,” says Zia. “I’ve been extremely lucky to share my dream and my products with amazing clients that have an understanding and appreciation for quality, craftmanship, and timeless elegance all around the world.”