There are many differences between alpaca and cashmere. On this blogpost, we will explore those differences, so that next time you buy a sweater or a blanket, you are able to make a more educated decision. Hopefully, after reading this you will then be able to answer this question: Should you choose a sweater in alpaca or cashmere?
When it comes to softness, quality is important. Good quality alpaca, which includes royal and baby alpaca, have about the same thickness as cashmere. The thickness rages between 18-23 microns in this case. Most cashmere falls at 19 microns.
This is why it is important that you choose a good quality sweater when you decide to get one. Cheaper options usually have lower grade fiber, both in alpaca and cashmere. Thus, the fiber used is generally coarser and it may cause some itching.
Cashmere provides good insulation, but alpaca steps the game up. The structural construction of alpaca fiber allows it to catch pockets of air that create very effective insulation. Cashmere doesn’t have the same fiber structure at a microscopic level as alpaca does. Therefore, its ability to provide insulation is not as good as in the case of alpaca fiber.
Pilling happens in garments made with shorter hair. In general, cashmere fiber is shorter than alpaca fiber. Because of this, pilling happens more often in cashmere garments than in alpaca garments.
As you may have read in a previous blogpost, it is not hard to get rid of pilling. But it is nice when you get less of it. That way, you don’t have to do maintenance on your garments very often.
Currently, there are over 700 million cashmere goats in the world vs. a little less than 5 million alpacas worldwide. This makes alpaca a rarity vs cashmere wool. It used not to be so. About 30-40 years ago, China started breeding cashmere goats massively and things changed.
As a result, in recent years many high-end fashion brands have started including alpaca garments in their collection to offer something more exclusive to their customers. After all, differentiation is one of the key factors to beat the competition.
Sustainability is one of the aspects that makes alpaca radically different to cashmere. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, alpaca is a sustainable fiber, while cashmere is not. For more information on this, read this fact sheet. To put it simply, alpaca herds are easy on the land and promote a sustainable habitat, while cashmere goats put extreme environmental stress on the fragile land where they live.
Cashmere goats eat very close to the roots, destroying plants and damaging topsoil and grass root systems with their stiletto-like hoofs. The result has been the desertification of the Inner Mongolian region, causing increasingly severe and frequent dust storms in China that travel around the world.
In contrast, alpacas are part of their ecosystem and coexist in it in a symbiotic manner. Their feet do not disturb grass root systems, because they have a soft pad similar to that of a dog. Alpacas eat the grass that grows at high altitudes in the swampy areas where they live. When they do so, they trap grass gently in their mouth without pulling it from the root. They consume a small amount of water (compared to goats) and their waste can easily be used as fertilizer.
An informed shopper can have an impact on the environment and communities with his or her choices. I hope that with this information, you will be able to make an informed decision next time you decide to buy a blanket or a sweater.