Tag Archives: Cashmere

Alpaca is Better Than Cashmere continued

…Ultimately cashmere is proving catastrophic for the enviroment. The Chinese grasslands are unable to support the number of cashmere goats required to meet the world’s growing demand of the cashmere fibre and consequently, these grasslands are turning into deserts of ice.

Cashmere was an extremely rare commodity until the early 1990’s but due to retailers and manufacturers finding ways to supply the luxury yarn at lower prices, demand for uber soft, colourful and light cashmere jumpers has boomed -100% cashmere sweater can be  bought at Uniqlo for less than £80 and a blended cotton – cashmere for less than £40.)

alpacas (AP Photo - Kerstin Joensson).png

alpacas (AP Photo – Kerstin Joensson).png

Consequently, the number of goat herds has exploded. Behind China, Mongolia is the second largest cashmere supplier where the goat population quadrupled from 5 million to 20 million in under 20 years (from 19990 to 2009).

Already, nearly all of Mongolia is at risk of turning into desert (90%) whilst many predict that over-grazing is exacerbating the effects of climate change in a process that is already advanced. The Gobi Desert increased by an area larger than the Netherlands between1994 and 1999 – that’s all within 5 years?!

By their nature, goats are more versatile than sheep meaning that shepherds in Mongolia now have a tendency to switch their livestock towards goats as land becomes more desert-like which fuels the problem by further damaging the ecology. The goats’ sharp hooves destroy topsoil and grass whilst they eat plants close to their roots which destroys their native grasses. It’s an extremely counter-productive system.

These former grasslands are home not only to goats and sheep but also home to wild horses, endangered snow leopards and the Tibetan antelope. In turn, the cashmere industry has threatened all of these animals’ survival. In turn and quite literally, the environmental footprint of an alpaca is far lighter than a cashmere goat’s. http://www.plumoflondon.com/history-alpacas.php

Alpacas Are Enviromentally Friendly

Alpacas soft, padded feet are gentle on the natural terrain and they graze without destroying root systems as they don’t eat purely the tops of grass unlike sheep and goats. Alpacas originate in the Alti Plano of the Peruvian Andes which is far less a fragile ecosystem.

Cute image of an Alpaca's face

Alpaca in its natural habitat

Alpacas are seeing much less of a boom in numbers unlike those of cashmere goats. The kind of population boom that cashmere goats have seen seems less likely for alpacas. According to the Natural Resources Defence Council, alpacas are much more efficient than cashmere goats. An alpaca consumes less water than a goat and is also able to grow enough fibre to create 4/5 jumpers in a year whilst in comparison, it takes four goats the same amount of time to produce enough cashmere yarn for a single sweater. It is now very easy to see why Alpaca can and should replace cashmere as the world’s number 1 ethical and sustainable luxury yarn.

Of course, the ultimate aim of us as alpaca brands and retailers is to offer product that is equal to if not better than those of cashmere which in fact, is proving easily attainable, especially as the quality of cashmere has declined. Mongolia’s cashmere industry privatized in 1990 when breeders began crossbreeding their herds and started to focus on quantity over quality – henceforth destroying cashmere’s tagline of being a ‘luxury’ fibre. The result was that although goats produced more cashmere by weight, the fibre became shorter and coarser which ultimately created a jumper that’s not as soft, not as durable, not as warm, doesn’t retain its shape and is much more likely to pill and ball. Whereas 30/ 40 years ago, cashmere garments would stand the test of time when the yarn wasn’t over-farmed, now the consumer will be lucky if their cashmere top lasts a season?! http://www.plumoflondon.com/why-alpaca.php

Contrary to popular opinion, alpaca fibres are sorted and arranged from where they’ve been shorn which ranges from the premium fibre which is taken from closest to the body and classified as baby alpaca and is not shorn from actual baby alpacas (otherwise known as crias). The guard hairs of the alpaca are found on the animal’s legs and top coats.

Alpaca yarn is categorised and sold in a similar way to how prime cuts of beef are – some are better and therefore more expensive than others. We at Plum of London exclusively use Royal alpaca otherwise known as Super Baby Alpaca which easily rivals the best cashmere with regards to softness whilst completely surpassing it when it comes to durability, breathability (alpaca possesses better thermal properties than merino), strength (alpaca is second strongest only to silk), warmth (alpaca is warmer than goose down), whilst it also boasts hypoallergenic and antibacterial qualities among many others…!

Royal Alpaca Prices

We’re due to launch our own version of women’s and men’s Royal alpaca jumpers and sweaters which will retail between £150 – £300 which although may seem expensive, our customers can rest assured that they will be an incredible investment and one which will last one lifetime if not two… After all, purchasing clothes should be considered as a long-term investment and not one which is seen as a flippant decision made on impulse – otherwise known as the ‘throwaway culture’ that we have now unfortunately found ourselves in. The UK alone generates around 14 million tonnes of textile waste per year so surely it’s time to consider the planet ethically and sustainably and buy one or two amazing alpaca knitwear garments than several poor quality cashmere versions.

Revolutionising Sustainable Knitwear – Plum of London

Times are a changing and we at Plum of London are at the epicentre of those changes thanks to the revolutionary way alpaca can positively change and alter the textile landscape. Come and experience the quality and attributes for yourself first hand and we promise you nor the planet, will be disappointed.

Why Alpaca?

We’re often asked why alpaca yarn performs so much better than cashmere, merino, wool as well as other yarns so have compiled which can be found below…

Why Alpaca?

Alpaca fibre has an almost infinite list of benefits and advantages over all other yarns;


Unlike sheep and goats wool, alpaca fibre does not contain lanolin meaning that Plum of London’s knitwear range is especially good for babies, children and those with sensitive skin.

As soft yet finer than cashmere

Royal alpaca (which is used in our knitted clothing range) is the world’s finest alpaca yarn and boasts a micron count of less than 17. This results in alpaca knitwear that handles just as softly as cashmere but possesses so many more benefits.

Naturally antibacterial

Thanks to there being no lanolin present in alpaca fibre, pure alpaca clothing and garments repel dust mites and other organic matter which might trigger allergies.

Lacks the ‘prickle factor’ associated with wool

This risk is eradicated in our collection because we use only Royal alpaca in our knitted range. It has been said that those who can’t wear cashmere can wear alpaca.

Possess incredible thermal qualities

Properties which protect and insulate the alpaca at heights of up to 5500m and in temperatures varying from -28c to +27C mean that pure alpaca clothing  keeps the wearer cool in hot temperatures and warm in cool conditions. When required, alpaca fleece is 3 times warmer than merino and better insulating even than goose down.

Machine washable

Some fabric experts suggest alpaca has a lower tendency to shrink than both cashmere and wool, Due to alpaca being free of lanolin, Plum of London’s knitted garments don’t require regular cleaning but when required, are easy to clean and more importantly, machine washable!

Extremely durable

Alpaca fibre is almost indestructible: woven alpaca clothing has recently been found in almost perfect condition in Incan ruins dating back over 2,000 years. Alpaca is stronger than mohair and second in strength only to silk.

Wicks away body moisture

Therefore improving the comfort of anyone wearing alpaca clothing and ensuring that the wearer maintains a constant body temperature.

Resistant to stains

Alpaca fibre is impermeable to oils meaning spills are easy to clean up before water saturates the fibre which would otherwise allow stains to develop supporting the claim that there is no better yarn in which to clothe babies and children.

Resistant to odours

Thanks to its antibacterial and water resistant qualities, alpaca fibre successfully resists odours much more effectively than other similar fibres.

Does not retain water

Tests have shown that alpaca is virtually water repellent, allowing alpaca clothing to maintain its thermal qualities even when wet.

Not prone to ‘pill and ball’ unlike cashmere, wool and other yarns

All animal fibres contain ‘scales’ which are visible on each individual strand but the scales that are found on alpaca fibre are much shorter consequently improving the wearability and lifespan of alpaca clothing and products as they are less likely to create ‘pilling’ and ‘balling’.

Lightweight and has lustrous handling

Thanks to the ‘hollow’ qualities of alpaca fibre, Plum of London’s garments remain remarkably light when compared to other similar animal fibre (including merino, wool and cashmere) as well as synthetic clothing.

Resistant to wrinkling

Consequently, this helps alpaca garments to hold their shape and look new after even years of wear.

Fire resistant

Whilst it can catch alight, alpaca will not support a flame and so will not melt or stick to the skin unlike synthetic fibres. Alpaca does has been found to be even more flame retardant than merino wool.

Resistant to solar radiation

Which will protect your baby’s, children’s or indeed even your own skin from harmful UV rays by providing the wearer with a natural sun block.