Vicuna is one of two wild South American camelids believed to be a distant relative of the domesticated Alpaca, found only in the high Andes, and is the national animal of Peru. Vicunas are only shorn every 3 years, but being wild animals they have to be caught first.
The sheering of a Vicuna is strictly controlled and is only allowed by law in Bolivia and Peru, once every two years. Exportation of Vicuna wool is strictly controlled and the fibre that is produced is extremely fine at 12 microns, is hollow and traps air as an insulation. It is a very delicate fibre and can only be dyed successfully with natural dyes. Its rarity was appreciated by the Inca’s and only royalty were permitted to wear clothing of Vicuna fabric.
Due to its rarity and delicacy the finished fabric commands a very high price. Loro Piana hold the exclusive rights for exports from Peru and Argentina and the fabric costs around £3000 per metre.