When people think of luxury sweaters or scarves, typically cashmere comes to mind. It even sounds luxurious when you say it: cashmere. It rolls off the tongue, as though spoken by a 1950’s starlet, maybe even Marilyn Monroe herself. But in reality, cashmere could be considered the poor cousin to the real luxury fabric: vicuña. Vi-what? Never heard of it? That’s likely because it’s so exclusive, so luxurious, it’s simply not a widely known material. It’s the king of luxury. In fact, its history is directly tied to royalty.
Vicuña is often referred to as “the fleece of the gods”. It comes from Peru, where long ago, Incan royalty were the only people lucky enough to wear garments made from this supreme fiber. The vicuña fiber comes from the actual vicuña animal. It is the smallest South American camelids – a cousin to llamas and alpacas. The vicuña is prized for its almond shaped eyes and its delicate structure, as well as its beautiful fur.
At one time the vicuña were in danger of extinction. Centuries ago, the Peruvian people performed a ceremonial and gentle way of gathering the fur. This process was called the Chaccu. They would create a giant human chain that calmly herded the vicuña into a small group so they could shear the animals and send them back into the wild unharmed. During this time, the vicuña numbered in the millions.
But during the Spanish invasion, the fur harvesting was much more destructive. Most of the time the vicuña were simply hunted and sheared, rather than returning them to nature. By 1960 there were only around 6,000 vicuña left in Peru. Thankfully, it was declared an endangered species, and the vicuña is once again thriving—no longer in danger of extinction, but still protected. And, once again, the amazing fur of this animal is harvested in the same, simple, humane method of the Chaccu.
The vicuña fiber is sensitive to any chemical treatment, so most of the time anything created from the fiber is simply made in the gorgeous natural caramel color. The fiber of the vicuña is very short, and very fine. This produces the softest, most luxurious material for making garments. But while the quality is unrivaled, there’s not a lot of quantity of this highly coveted material, so like anything rare, it’s expensive.
This is a true luxury item, affordable to only a select few. But in true St. Croix tradition of offering “only the best”, we worked very hard to obtain a small collection of this amazing product to offer our customers. We recommend that patrons try on the vicuña sweater next to bare skin, to truly feel the luxuriousness of the material and understand the unparalleled softness.
Securing this prized item is not something you do over the phone. Mr. Brenner personally tracked down this material at its source. He simply had to have this premium item in the collection to offer to our most discriminating clients.
We’re proud that we’ve been offering this amazing product to our customers. When you purchase a vicuña sweater, it comes in a beautiful wooden box with a booklet about the history of the vicuña included. It’s presented to you as a treasure, because it really is. If you’re lucky enough to own a vicuña sweater from St. Croix, you are truly fortunate.