Saturday, August 22, 2009

Golden Fleece

Born well above the tree line, in the extreme high-altitude regions of the South American Andes, vicuñas were considered sacred by the Incas. Only royalty were allowed to wear their precious fleece.
Cousin to the alpaca, the llama and the wild guanaco, the vicuña is the smallest member of the camelid family, it weights around 100 pounds and it is almost never taller than three feet high.

Vicuña's incredibly buttery soft fabric, usually undyed to preserve its softness, makes even cashmere seem harsh. Its fleece is the rarest and costliest natural fiber in the world, because of that, vicuñas were enthusiastically hunted from the time of the Spanish conquistadors through the 1960s, when they were near extinction.

Today, vicuñas are still worshipped as sacred animals by the Aymara Indians of Peru and Bolivia, and thanks to conservation efforts, they have made a strong comeback. It is really nice to see that many designers like italian Loro Piana are using its golden fleece in their winter collections.

This is very good news, with the comeback of vicuñas; people in the Andes will have a sustainable income for years to come.

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