When it comes to luxury fabrics, both alpaca wool and cashmere wool are at the top of the list. Known for their softness, warmth, and undeniable style, these materials are often considered two of the finest fibers for high-end garments and accessories.
But which one has the edge? In this article, we will explore the key differences between alpaca vs cashmere, discussing their unique characteristics and helping you decide which is the better choice for your needs.
Alpaca wool is derived from the fleece of the alpaca, it has gained popularity due to its natural warmth and durability, as well as its eco-friendliness. On the other hand, cashmere comes from the soft undercoat of the cashmere goat, mainly found in Asia.
Cashmere is renowned for its supreme softness and luxurious feel, as the fibers are finer and more delicate than those found in alpaca wool.
Overview of Alpaca and Cashmere Wool
Alpaca wool comes from the Peruvian alpacas, the fibers of alpaca wool typically have a thickness ranging from 18-23 microns, making it comparable to cashmere in terms of softness.
This natural fiber is hollow with an insulating core, allowing it to provide excellent warmth and breathability.
In addition to its desirable qualities, alpaca wool is considered a more sustainable choice compared to cashmere due to the lower environmental impact of alpacas.
They require less resources and have a softer impact on the land they graze on, making their wool a conscious choice for eco-friendly consumers.
Cashmere wool is obtained from the undercoat of Cashmere goats, providing an exquisite softness that is highly sought after. The fibers of cashmere wool generally measure around 19 microns, making them slightly finer and more delicate than alpaca fibers. This results in a luxuriously soft texture that is well-loved by consumers.
While cashmere is undeniably soft and warm, it may not be as durable as alpaca wool. Cashmere products are prone to pilling, and their delicate fibers are more susceptible to wear and tear over time. The process of sourcing cashmere is not as sustainable as alpaca wool, further differentiating the two options.
Both alpaca and cashmere wools offer soft, warm, and luxurious fibers for a variety of products. Alpaca wool, however, stands out for its durability, warmth, and sustainability, while cashmere wool is renowned for its unparalleled softness.
Their distinct properties make each type of wool well-suited for different consumer preferences and needs.
Softness and Warmth Comparison
Alpaca fibers typically have a thickness that ranges from 18-23 microns (Baby Alpaca Wool is typically softer than wool from Adult Alpacas), while cashmere fibers usually fall at 19 microns. This means that alpaca wool can be just as soft, or even softer, than cashmere wool.
Both fibers are known for their warmth. Alpaca wool is considered to be extremely warm, even more so than cashmere, due to its lighter weight and hollow fiber structure.
The softness and warmth of these fibers can also be attributed to the animals that produce them.
Both animals are lanolin-free, making their wool hypoallergenic and suitable for those with sensitive skin.
Although both fibers are luxuriously soft and warm, disparities in production can result in varying quality. Cashmere garments can differ significantly in price and quality due to the varying production methods used.
On the other hand, alpaca garments are usually of high quality, without much variance in price or quality between different products.
Hypoallergenic Properties and Lanolin Content
Pure alpaca wool is considered hypoallergenic due to its minimal levels of lanolin, a natural grease secreted by animals like sheep that can cause allergies or irritation in some people. Since alpaca fibers are lanolin-free, they’re a suitable option for those with sensitive skin.
Alpaca wool does not require substantial chemical treatment to remove dirt and grease, contributing to its hypoallergenic nature.
Cashmere, on the other hand, may not be hypoallergenic for all users. While both alpaca and cashmere are comfortable against the skin and do not usually cause irritation, cashmere fibers are finer and more delicate, which some individuals may find less irritating than coarser fibers.
Quality, Durability, and Insulation
Alpaca fibers range from 18-23 microns, making them capable of offering the same level of softness as cashmere. Additionally, alpaca wool has a natural resistance to pilling, giving it a longer life and increasing its durability.
Cashmere, on the other hand, has finer strands, making it softer to the touch but potentially less durable. Due to the delicate nature of cashmere fibers, this type of wool is more susceptible to pilling and may require more delicate care to maintain its quality.
In terms of insulation, alpaca wool provides greater insulation compared to cashmere. Its fibers have a hollow core, which helps to retain warmth and keep the wearer comfortable in colder conditions.
Alpaca wool is also more lightweight than cashmere, contributing to its excellent insulation properties without adding unnecessary bulk.
Cashmere is known for its warmth, but it does not provide the same level of insulation as alpaca wool. Cashmere’s fine fibers efficiently trap air, thus providing a reasonable degree of warmth.
Environmental Impact and Sustainability
Alpaca wool and Cashmere wool differ in their environmental impact and sustainability.
Alpaca wool is considered more sustainable than cashmere due to its lower environmental impact. Alpacas require less water and food than cashmere-producing goats.
Alpacas are typically sheared annually without harm, producing a continuous supply of wool throughout their lives.
In contrast, the cashmere industry faces challenges in terms of sustainability. As the demand for cashmere wool has rapidly increased since the 1990s, mass production has put strain on both the environment and the quality of fibers.
Cashmere goats’ grazing habits have contributed to overgrazing and desertification in some regions. Cashmere fibers’ thickness and quality have suffered due to the pressure to meet consumer demands.
Production and Animal Care
Alpaca wool is primarily produced in Peru, where alpacas graze in the Andes mountains. Alpacas are sheared once a year, typically during the warmer months, to ensure their health and well-being.
This process does not harm the animals, and it also allows them to stay cool in the warm climate. The natural fibers from the alpaca come in a variety of colors, such as white, brown, black, and even shades of gray.
This diverse palette of natural colors eliminates the need for harsh dyeing processes often used with other types of wool.
On the other side, cashmere wool is predominantly sourced from Mongolia and other parts of Central Asia. It comes specifically from the undercoat of the Cashmere goat, which is gathered during the shearing process.
This usually takes place once a year during the spring, when the goats naturally shed their winter coats. Cashmere wool production involves no harm to the animals, and the shearing process allows them to stay comfortable during warmer months.
Although cashmere fibers are not as diverse in color as alpaca wool, they can still be found in some natural shades and can be dyed accordingly.
Watch this video on how cashmere is made:
Cost and Value for Money
When comparing alpaca wool vs cashmere wool, there are some differences in cost and value for money.
In terms of cost, alpaca wool is generally more affordable than cashmere. Alpaca wool typically ranges from $25-$50 per yard, while cashmere can start at around $100 per yard and reach up to $400 depending on quality.
This price difference can be attributed to the yield, as cashmere is obtained from rare goat breeds and requires a more labor-intensive process to harvest the fibers.
The yield of alpaca fibers is greater compared to cashmere, as alpacas produce more fleece per animal. This contributes to alpaca wool being more affordable and accessible.
Comparing other factors such as:
- Insulation: Alpaca wool offers slightly improved insulation, providing better warmth.
- Durability: Alpaca fibers are stronger and longer, resulting in more durable garments.
- Softness: Cashmere is often considered softer than alpaca, but alpaca wool is still extremely smooth and comfortable to wear.
While cashmere is considered more luxurious and soft, the price difference compared to alpaca wool might not be worth it for some consumers. Alpaca wool provides excellent warmth, durability, and a lower cost, making it a wise choice for budget-conscious shoppers who still want to enjoy the tactile benefits of a high-quality natural fiber.
In conclusion, when considering cost and value for money, there are unique qualities to both alpaca and cashmere wool. While cashmere is more expensive and often seen as the epitome of luxury, alpaca wool offers an affordable and practical alternative without compromising warmth, durability, and softness.