A boutique owner shared an interesting tidbit with me recently: baby alpaca is being touted as an attractive alternative to cashmere. According to one source, alpaca boasts "the softness of cashmere, the lustre and strength of silk, the lightness of goose feathers and the long-term durability of wool." Designers like it for its "superior drape and handle," and eco-conscious consumers find comfort in the fiber's green reputation.
Additionally, alpaca fleece - which often comes from countries with favorable exchange rates and duty-free imports to the US - is said to cost about 40 percent less than cashmere.
Retailers like the one I spoke with could likely do well marketing alpaca as the "new cashmere" now that consumers are realizing the limitations of the cheap versions of the latter that flooded the market over the past few years.