Textile Spotlight: Precious Vicuna Fiber

vicuna fiber

As designers, we are constantly searching for the best materials to use in creating beautiful garments. Certain fabrics can make all the difference in adding that luxe factor.

For instance, everyone recognizes the beauty and quality of cashmere or silk. However, there is a lesser known fiber out there which puts those two textiles to shame. If you are a designer who is searching for the ultimate luxury fabric (or you’re just really into cool textiles) you have to check out vicuna.

Vicuna has been worn for centuries exclusively by the elite – from Incan royalty to famous movie stars. Vicuna is reserved for bespoke garments due to its value. A scarf made from the fiber can cost $4,000, while a suit can run up to $40,000!

So, what can possibly make a fabric so special that customers will drop thousands on it?

The first unique aspect is its rarity. The fiber is sheared from the back and neck of the vicuna, a Peruvian animal that resembles a small llama. Not only does the animal dwell in the Andes, it refuses to live in captivity, starving itself to death if captured.

Thus, the vicuna can only be sheared if it is found in the wild. Additionally, the animal yields very little fiber – usually around 17 ounces – which is barely enough to make one scarf.

As difficult as vicuna fiber is to get, for many, it is a prize worth chasing.

I got to hold a sample of vicuna last year, and I can personally attest to the fact that the fiber really does live up to the hype! It is incredibly soft, even more so than cashmere. This is because vicuna fibers are the finest in the world, measuring 12.5 microns in diameter, compared to the 13.5 microns of high-end cashmere. It is also very light – almost weightless – which makes it an alluring fashion material.

Image via Departures

Jessica Bucci

Jessica has been trained in a wide variety of textile and fiber processes, traditional as well as computer-aided, which she uses in both her design and sculptural work. Jessica has also served as a teaching assistant for beginning weavers and drawers.