The Vicuña is a slender animal with a long neck, small head and pointed ears. It is a small relative of the Alpaca and Llama. What is it that made the fleece of the Vicuña so valuable that the ancient Incas made it illegal for people to wear it? Before we go into the details, let’s start off with a little background on this special animal.
The Vicuña was so valued for their wool that it made the Inca’s decide to make it against the law for the common people to wear it. Only royalties, or highly respected men were allowed to cover themselves in what we now call ‘the finest wool on the planet’ or ‘fiber of the gods’. Both under the rule of the Inca and the Peruvian government, the Vicuña have been protected by law. However, the animals have been heavily hunted, making the Vicuña almost extinct by 1974. Today, the Vicuña population has grown back to a healthy 335.000 species.
The Vicuña is most commonly found in the Andes region in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Colombia, high up in the mountains (3,800 to 4,800 meters above sea level). To survive the freezing winters and sizzling hot summers, it has developed a unique golden undercoat that is made up of hairs that are ultra-fine and extremely dense, with superb temperature regulating properties. The outer coat is comprised of long, strong hairs that protect the animal from the harsh elements.
Vicuña wool, the de-haired undercoat of the Vicuña, is popular for its extreme warmth insulation and lightness. Its properties come from hollow, air-filled fibers that interlock easily to trap insulating air. At just 10 micron (or 0,000 010 meter) Vicuñas have some of the thinnest hair fibers in the world. The fibers are up to 8 times thinner than human hairs! Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool (only about 0,25 KG per year), This causes it to be very expensive. Moreover, the animal can only be shorn every three years, and its undercoat needs to be separated by hand from its outercoat, making it even more valuable. When knitted together, the product of the vicuña's wool is very soft and warm, making it feel more like satin than wool, while keeping the insulating properties of wool. Since Vicuña wool is very sensitive to chemical treatments, it is usually left in its beautiful natural camel/brown color, which is loved by many since it has a warm and earthy tone to it.
Fisher & Woordes works with this Vicuña fiber to create exclusive scarves of unprecedented quality. We make sure none of the Vicuñas were harmed during the shaving process as we only use yarns from trusted Italian top suppliers that all have been certified under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).