Alpacas, llamas and vicunas are intrinsically connected to Andean culture. In pre-Inca and Inca times, these animals were venerated as every other natural element, as these cultures recognized that they were not separate from them and were indeed incomplete without them. The Andean cosmovision understood that every manifestation of nature comes from the same source and is equally important for life to flourish.

Alpacas, however, had a special relationship with humans. Their meat is highly nutritious, wool serves for warm clothing, blankets and tapestry weaving, other body parts were used for medicine and their hooves massage the land preparing it for sowing (unlike cows, for example, who flatten it and destroy grass). Alpacas had a very special spiritual and mythical symbolism. One of the beliefs is that they are so high vibrational that they repel all kinds of heavy energies. Therefore, their wool is used for protection amulets. 

Alpaca wool has the characteristics of being waterproof and maintaining the body heat at a healthy temperature by allowing excess heat out but maintaining enough warmth in. For example, an alpaca sweater won’t do what a down jacket does, which is making you sweat as soon as you walk into a heated room. It will immediately let the heat out and you can keep the sweater on without sweating.

Unfortunately, the rise of fast fashion and synthetic materials that are derived from plastic (and before that, fossil fuels) has caused the use of alpaca and other wools to decrease. In Ecuador, you rarely see alpacas anymore and even more rare is to find garments made from it. However, it is still coveted enough that people in crafts markets will lie to tourists about sweaters or blankets being made with their wool. 

When we decided to begin making alpaca products, it was very difficult to find material in Ecuador or a company with the scale and quality to produce for us. We found a company in Peru who we sampled with, but ended up deciding to produce in Ecuador to stay true to our values. 

One of our pillars is for our operations to preserve ancestral craft techniques. Therefore, even though it took a lot more work, we chose to produce in Ecuador where the alpaca industry is way smaller than in Peru. It is indeed so small, that we even had to import alpaca from Peru! This is crazy, as the region where we produce was once home to hundreds of thousands of free and domesticated alpacas, and communities dressed in their wool daily.

We believe it might be interesting for you to learn a little more about these camelids, their past and their present. Tune in to our Instagram stories as we share more while beanie supplies last!

Note: we must acknowledge the Andean indigenous wisdom keepers who have shared bits and pieces of alpaca history with me and enabled me to share. Special acknowledgement to Yolanda Guamán, writer of the publication ‘El renacer de la Reina Andina’, an in depth research of the past, present and future of camelids in the Andes.

Emily Rathmanner