In Praise of Alpaca Fibre

Words and Images by Form & Refine

Our Aymara textile line is designed with Nordic design traditions and made from 100% of the finest and purest alpaca wool produced by highly skilled craftsmen in Bolivia. A combination resulting in a simple eminence product.

In our travels around the world, the alpaca from the Bolivian Highlands caught our immediate attention due to the supreme quality of the alpaca fibres. Bolivia is known for their expertise in alpaca wool, dating back thousands of years. 

Our local partner in Bolivia is a cooperative owned by 400 alpaca farmers and knitters. Their skills and knowledge of the material and the craftsmanship have been passed on from generation to generation since the ancient civilizations of the Andes – making this a once in a lifetime item.

 

Alpaca as a material

Our Alpaca fibres are 100% pure with no combinations of other wool mixes or synthetic fibres. The fibre is very fine, yet extremely durable and the textiles produced from it last a very long time. The alpaca fibre is not prickly and perfect for a sensitive skin. Unlike most other types of wool, it does not contain lanolin – making it 100% allergy friendly.

– A Product of Bolivia 

Alpacas have been kept harmoniously as livestock, since the ancient tribes of the Andean highlands first began farming them. The climate in the so-called Altiplanoyields the perfect conditions for a natural and healthy life for both the alpacas and their farmers who have developed sophisticated skills to produce high quality textiles. 

All these traditions, stories and great materials we want to pass on to the consumer.

 

Co-operative collaboration   

Our local partners in Bolivia is a cooperative, which means it is owned by 400 alpaca breeders from communities surrounding La Paz. Every three years the alpaca breeders select five presidents that represent and run the company. The cooperative ensures a collective working environment. When visiting the company, you experience this collective atmosphere where each worker feels important and proud.

And they are important, everyone from the alpaca breeders who invest and raise the alpacas, the workers that process and convert the raw materials into garment to the knitters who transform the garment into beautiful products. Each person and each step of labor contributes to a much larger purpose. We are proud to cooperate with these people and aim to pass on their stories and work to the world.

 

“The Fibre of Gods”

The Alpaca fibre is silky soft and superior in its abilities. It does not retain water and effectively resists solar radiation. It has a thermal insulating effect making it warm and comfortable while still being lightweight, almost ethereal; No wonder the Incas in Bolivia denoted it “The Fibre of Gods”. 

When spun and woven carefully, these qualities make it perfect for long-lasting textiles. At our manufacturer’s, the Alpaca fibres keep their natural characteristics and are not exposed to toxic ingredients during their processing. Another important statement is that alpaca is allergy friendly since it does not contain lanolin. The fleece is divided into four qualities, ranging from Baby Alpaca (fleece from the underside of the neck or from the very first shearing of an alpaca), Superfine, Adult and Coarse. We use Baby Alpaca and Super Fine Alpaca for our designs.

Refining the raw material  

Every year around February the alpaca breeders in the Bolivian Highlands cut their huacaya alpacas. This fine fleece is brought to the warehouse. Here, the fibers are graded and sorted by hand for finesses and color. Alpaca fleece comes in sixteen natural shades, from white to black. A beautiful color pallet that we mainly use in our design, both in the respect for the natural colors and with respect for the nature. The grading process is mainly done by women whose skills and knowledge of the materials have been passed on from generation to generation. After this grading the fibres are cleaned, combed and made to ball tops of yarn. This is done by machines through several processes. 

The fine alpaca yarn on the ball tops is then woven to plaids, pillow cases and other Form & Refine products. Every knitted item goes through a piece by piece quality control and is carefully finished by hand.

 

Forming the material

A close collaboration and understanding of our partners is important, in order to respect the material and understand the process. These parameters are taken into the design process, where we – with our Nordic design background – form the material into a new language. For us it is an interesting meeting between a rich and colorful culture to a Nordic minimalistic design culture. 

With respect for the long-lasting quality of the Alpaca we strive to make a design that emphasizes that, by working with a simple and honest design and by doing it with deep dedication and care as our collaborators in Bolivia have shown us. 

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