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The wool that costs as much as a Birkin (but is worth every cent spent)

The jewel in Loro Piana’s crown: Vicuna, the world’s rarest animal fibre, for the brand’s softest and most luxurious knits
 

Photo: Loro Piana

This reversible cape is vicuna on one side and baby cashmere on the other. And, um… it’s $32,250.

 

When Loro Piana says it won’t compromise on quality, it’s doesn’t say this lightly. It goes directly to the sources in China and Mongolia for top-grade cashmere and baby cashmere (the latter only comes from one-year-old goats). The 93-year-old Italian brand also has long-term agreements with breeders in Australia and New Zealand to purchase their finest wool, which Loro Piana has trademarked as “The Gift of Kings”.

 

Photo: Loro Piana

 

At the company’s facilities in Italy, the precious fibres are transformed into the luxurious knitwear the brand is most known for. But it isn’t only famous for its cashmere and wool; it is also highly regarded for the much less well-known vicuna (both the animal and the fibre). Loro Piana is, after all, the company that most significantly contributed to the recovery of local populations of the Andes-dwelling, doe-eyed camelid. Prized for its fleece, the vicuna was at one point hunted to near extinction - numbers fell below 5,000 in the ’60s. In 2008, Loro Piana stepped in and established the Dr Franco Loro Piana Reserve (named after the father of the brand’s founder, Pietro) on the Peruvian Andes to protect the animals from poachers. On the 2,000ha land (bigger than 2,400 football fields), vicunas are allowed to roam freely under the villagers’ watchful eyes, and are corralled only once every two years to be quickly and humanely sheared in an ancient, celebratory Incan ritual called chaccu.

 

Photo: Loro Piana

Deputy Chairman Mr Loro Piana and a vicuna

 

What makes vicuna so precious? In the harsh conditions of the Andes, the diminutive animals develop a short, dense and exceptionally fine underfleece that yields fibres with remarkable thermoregulating properties. In the biennial shearing ritual, each adult animal provides just 250g of hair. After removing the coarser hairs, only 120-150g is left of the extremely rare fibre, which also happens to be incomparably light, soft, yet warm. This is spun, woven and crafted into Loro Piana’s luxurious offerings, which cost from $7,800 for a 100 per cent vicuna stole to more than $32,000 for a part-vicuna cape.

 

Photo: Loro Piana

How fine is vicuna? Each fibre is a mere 12-13 microns wide. (A human hair is 50 microns wide, and cashmere, depending on the grade, is around 14.) It’s only competitor: superfine merino wool dubbed “The Gift of Kings,” also 12 microns, and as light as vicuna.

 

Photo: Loro Piana

Get Loro Piana from The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (#B1-93/94), Ion Orchard (#02-18), or at www.loropiana.com.

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