The Most Luxurious Fiber

Ask a weaver to name the most luxurious yarn and they might mention cashmere, silk, alpaca, or perhaps musk ox. While all of these are luscious, they don’t hold a candle to vicuña. Vicuñas, native to the central Andes, are related to the llama. They are smaller than their better-known cousins, and only produce one pound of fiber a year. Oh, but what a fiber it is! Vicuña is warmer than any wool and softer than cashmere. In Inca times, vicuña was so revered that only royalty could wear it, and anyone foolish enough to harm a vicuña was put to death.

Today, vicuñas mostly live in Peru where they are under government protection. They can only legally be shorn once every three years—which is a difficult feat, as vicuña are undomesticated. All of this contributes to a high price tag: a single skein of vicuña yarn costs around $100, and woven fabric can top $4,000/yard. In 2009 the Scottish cloth company Holland and Sherry sold a limited number of vicuña suits for the bargain price of $50,000 each.

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