One could say it is the year of the alpaca. And as brands and retailers increasingly seek ways to advance and embrace sustainability, alpaca has emerged as a viable alternative for designers and consumers craving the look and feel of natural fur in lieu of chemical-laden synthetics.
Aligning with this movement is luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman and its Alpaca del Peru pop-up shop, “Passport to Peru,” which offers buttery soft Peruvian knits from alpaca, as well as pima cotton garments and accessories. The pop-up made its debut last week at a special event at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.
The Passport to Peru shop features contemporary and ready-to-wear collections from five Peruvian designers that integrated Alpaca del Peru into their products: Alessandra Petersen, Anntarah, AYNI, Escudo and Meche Correa. Brand such as Nicholas K, John Varvatos, Mara Hoffman and Kate Spade are also “big alpaca advocates,” according to the company, with entrants the likes of Reformation, which introduced alpaca into its fall collection. Several designers sold at Bergdorf Goodman that work with Alpaca del Peru include Prada, Missoni, Balenciaga, Loro Piana, Isabel Marant, Rosie Assoulin, Tibi and Rachel Comey.
To complement the pop-up, the retailer’s BG Restaurant will serve Peruvian cuisine from its specially created lunch menu through Oct. 5 — think of avocado ceviche, mahi-mahi filet with aji amarillo sauce or a cherimoya mousse with blueberries — in addition to offering Peru’s classic cocktails such as Pisco Sours and spicy Pisco Mules.
The partnership is the second collaboration between Peru and Bergdorf Goodman. Brooke Fisher, vice president and divisional merchandising manager, women’s contemporary, Bergdorf Goodman, told WWD, “The fact that alpaca is one of the most sustainable resources and typically sourced from rural Andean communities is very attractive to the environmentally conscious customer. At the same time, the fabric is also extremely soft, luxe, and durable, which appeals to the luxury clientele.” Fisher continued, “Fashion in Peru is rich in color and texture. I chose these five designers because they perfectly represented the Peruvian culture and created emotional pieces that I knew the BG customer would gravitate towards.”
Once considered the “gold of the Andes” and worn by Incan royalty, today alpaca is touted as a wholly sustainable fiber, as it is hypoallergenic, water-resistant, temperature controlled, biodegradable, antimicrobial, breathable, lightweight and obtained annually through “ecological and ethically sound practices,” according to the trade commission of Peru in New York. Alpaca fiber manufacturing processes in Peru “prioritize environmental responsibility with many factories having zero waste policies and global manufacturing certifications,” and the animals are entirely unharmed from shearing. Alpacas are also “the greenest animals of all,” as they do not destroy land from their eating methods or treading, the organization said.
Alpaca del Peru is a brand created by the Peruvian government to help promote alpaca’s many uses across apparel, outerwear and accessories. Conrado Falco, director of the trade commission in New York, said, “The exports of Alpaca del Peru are growing exponentially, with an increase of 29 percent during 2017 and an additional growth of 49 percent during the first half of 2018. At market prices, this would represent between U.S. $1 billion and $1.5 billion, depending on the mark-up of the raw materials in the garments for 2018.”
Conrado told WWD, “Alpaca del Peru is the country’s brand, developed to promote a differential, almost exclusive product of Peru. Meaning, that 80 percent of the global Alpaca population is in Peru and Peruvians have been working with this luxury material for thousands of years. We expect that Alpaca will be a key material in the fashion industry for decades to come and will grow more than 10 percent each year, maintaining its unique position as the best in sustainable luxury.” Falco added, “Through various initiatives, we have been taking between 15 and 25 designers from New York and the U.S. and Canada to Peru every year so they can experience first-hand the Alpaca environment and the way rural families and working women are responsibly included in the Alpaca industry. They return home as Alpaca fans. Many international brands, from the big design houses in France and Italy as well as those in Japan, Korea and China, are also using 100 percent Peruvian Alpaca, blends with it, and manufacturing in Peru.”
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