Why Alpaca Fibers Have Become Luxury Clothing Manufacturers’ Most Preferred Choice?
As environmental concerns regarding use of non-biodegradable polymers increased, textile manufacturing companies once again turned to natural fibers for their durability, strength, and sustainability. Alpaca fibers, in the last few years, have fared strongly in all these parameters and are slowly replacing not just artificial fibers but also traditional natural options. Due to some of the inherent advantages of alpaca fleece over normal wool, the alpaca fiber market is poised to grow in the next few years.
Textile manufacturing is one of the oldest industries of human civilization. Cotton and wool have been used since time immemorial for making different types of textiles. With the advent of polymers, several new fibers have been invented which offer great strength and durability. However, one great disadvantage with respect to these artificial fibers is their non-biodegradable nature which has been a subject of concern in the past few years. As a result, despite their various benefits, the use and demand for artificial fibers has somewhat reduced with the dawn of the new millennium. With this decrease in demand for artificial fibers, a quest for a sustainable option to replace these polymers began. In this quest, alpaca fiber has shown promising results as a suitable candidate and has risen in popularity in the textile industry.
What is Alpaca Fiber and Why Has It Gained So Much Popularity Lately?
Just like wool is collected from a sheep, alpaca fleece or fiber is collected from alpaca, a camelid similar to llama. Previously, alpaca fibers were thought to be similar to wool in terms of texture, durability, and biodegradable nature. However, as different studies unfolded, many textile manufacturers started preferring alpaca fiber over normal wool. The growing preference for alpaca fleece has been evident from the fact that it is increasingly being used as a raw material for manufacturing of luxury clothing items. This increasing use of alpaca fleece in luxury clothing production is, as per a report by Research Dive, predicted to aid the global alpaca fiber market to garner a revenue of $1,201.5 million by 2031.
One of the most crucial advantages of alpaca fleece over regular wool is that it is hypoallergic while normal wool isn’t. People who are sensitive to allergens, hence, are generally allergic to wool; this problem doesn’t arise in the case of alpaca fleece. Thus, alpaca fiber, at the very outset, can cater to the demands of a larger section of the population. Moreover, alpaca fleece, as various tests have shown, is much more durable and stronger as compared to normal wool. On average, while normal wool has a tensile rate of 30-35, the tensile rate of alpaca fleece generally has an above-50 value.
Alpaca fibers and normal wool fibers, both, have scales on them; hence both have a certain uneven texture. But alpaca fibers are smoother than wool which makes them less itchy to touch and thus impart greater comfortability to the wearer. Furthermore, the diameter of wool fiber is around 20 microns, while that of alpaca fleece is around 18 microns. Since alpaca fibers are finer, they become a better choice for manufacturing luxury apparel products and ultra-light textiles.
Just like wool, alpaca fleece has temperature regulation properties. Hence, textiles made from alpaca fleece provide warmth during winters and offer comfort during scorching summers. However, when it comes to retaining moisture, alpaca fiber fares much better than normal wool fibers. Though wool fibers and alpaca fleece exhibit moisture wicking, alpaca fleece is water resistant as it absorbs only 11% of its weight in moisture; normal wool, on the other hand, absorbs around 30% of its weight in moisture. This property of alpaca fleece helps it to dry faster and makes it a better insulator as compared to normal wool.
As can be seen from above, alpaca fleece is better than normal wool in almost all aspects while, at the same time, being a sustainable and eco-friendly option for textile manufacturers. Another great advantage of alpaca fiber is that it comes in more than 20 natural colors which provides a huge creative space for luxury textile manufacturers. However, since the supply of alpaca fiber hasn’t streamlined to the level of normal wool, its cost is comparatively higher as compared to wool. Establishing all-weather global supply chains and setting up alpaca textile manufacturing plants in different parts of the world will help in addressing this demand-supply mismatch.
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