Sunday, August 12, 2012

Angolo di Modo Weekly Tip: Vicuna - The Fabric of the Gods

Vicuna: The Fabric of the Gods
Angolo di Modo Men's Haberdashery & Style weekly tip series continues with our recommendation to consider "the fabric of the gods" this Fall: vicuña wool.
Noticeably different and softer than any other wool, vicuña (pronounced vee-cun-ya) is the softest wool in existence and the smallest fiber capable of being spun. Loungerati's style guy, Eff, has a sport coat made of vicuña and swears that the fabric is insanely warm and supple. It is so dissimilar to regular wool that people insist on a second touch but cannot place the fabric. Higher end designers such as Kiton of Napoli are fond of using the coveted fiber.

vicuña is part of the camelid species and is relative of the llama. It is also the national animal of Peru. They live on the grasslands of the high Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina at an altitude of up to three miles above sea level. The wool is gathered from the back and neck of the beast. However, the vicuña wool can only be cultivated in the wild as the animals are know to starve themselves to death in captivity. Peruvian peasants gather the wool using a centuries old communal herding method called the chacu. In the chacu ritual, hundreds of farmers form a circle by joining hands around a vicuña herd. They corral the animals into clusters, shear them, and release. A single vicuña produces just one pound of wool and it can only be gathered from one animal every three years. As you can imagine, this makes farming the animals impossible and production low.
In the 1970s, the  number of vicuña dropped under 10,000 animals so the United Nations stepped in and made any trade of these endangered animals illegal. Twenty years later, their numbers returned acceptable levels and trade has resumed - but at a price that keeps production relatively low. In 1993, Peru formed the National Council for South American Camelids (CONACS), which was charged with overseeing Peru’s vicuña preservation program. Today there are around a quarter million vicuña in the Andean region.

This Autumn, get your mitts on a vicuña wool scarf or a sports jacket if you can swing it. Due to the limited production of this high quality wool, vicuña can easily cost its weight in gold!

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