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Vicuna wool

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by mistahlee, Jan 1, 2004.

  1. mistahlee

    mistahlee Well-Known Member

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    Yesterday my tailor showed me swatches of wool made from the hair of the vicuna.  This small, mountain dwelling, animal, nearly extinct awhile ago, is related to the llama and camel. Apparently Loro Piana owns an herd in the Andes and harvests the wool under an arrangment with the Peruvian government.

    In any case, this stuff is almost unbelievably fine.  Vicuna is to cashmere as cashmere is to Harris tweed.  Well, that may be an exaggeration, but it is luxurious.  And priced accordingly. The natural color is a delicious, reddish camel.

    Has anyone owned a garment of this magnificent material?  If so, what was it?  How did the fabric wear?  Did it pill?    

    Am thinking of ordering a vest.  Would that be good?

    Thank you, gentlemen.
     
  2. banksmiranda

    banksmiranda Well-Known Member

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    I know that vicuna was in short supply for years due to its endangered species status, but only recently have Loro Piana and Agnona(part of Zegna) been granted exclusive rights to Peruvian vicuna. I am somewhat wary of spending so much on a single garment. Since it has been reintroduced so recently the prices are still quite high. Right now Super 150s and Super 180s suits are quite a bit less than Super 210s due solely to the relative rarity of Super 210s, though all three are very "fine" fibers. Remember that Brioni, which used to have an exclusive, and now Oxxford and maybe others, offer Escorial, which is bred in Australia and New Zealand and woven in Scotland by Reid and Taylor. Escorial is a very fine fiber, ~12 micron. Vicuna fibers are on average 11 or 12-14 micron.
     
  3. rayk

    rayk Well-Known Member

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    Vicuna is, as you recently learned, a most luxuriant, and correspondingly, expensive material.  On a thread here, or perhaps on Ask Andy, reference is made to a vicuna overcoat with a price tag of $40,000.  Any garment that uses this fabric, even in small quantity, would come with a considerable premium.  Of course you might search for a vicuna blend, which could provide many of the qualities that you desire without the steep price.

    I suspect that the time required to find a RTW vicuna vest would be considerable, and were you able to locate one, it may not be of a style that appealed to you.  Perhaps others know of a store that carries such a garment.

    Should you decide, however, to purchase the fabric and have a bespoke vest made, it would be necessary to find a competent tailor; unless you live in a large metro area, finding one of this endangered species is not always as simple as it may seem.

    As for the correctness of the garment, I think that it would be a stylish addition to any wardrobe, but also would be, given its "odd vest" status, mostly confined to casual or sport dress.  Of course, many others are advocates of self-styling and might advise the combination of an odd vest with business attire; if you possess a touch of dash, you may agree and attempt to incorporate this vest into a more business oriented ensemble.

    Let us know what you decide.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. hermes

    hermes Well-Known Member

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    piana actually has a management contract with the goverment of peru to help manage the vicuna herds, train locals on herd management and attempt to create local jobs based on the vicuna (much like what is done with the cashmere goat in kashmire (sic)) all while preserving but expanding the vicuna numbers to a more sustainable level

    and i believe 'wool' can only be used with material from sheep and as such, vicuna is not wool, just like goats don't produce wool, but cashmere, for example

    or am i completely wrong
     
  5. banksmiranda

    banksmiranda Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure of the terminology.  I think that cashmere is from the chin and underbelly of the kashmir goat.  I suppose I generically referred to the hair/fleece/fiber as "wool." Essentially these are all wool-type products. For example, the widely used term "pashmina" is simply the Indian term for "cashmere." Many people think that pashmina is a completely different, more exclusive thing, which it is not.
     
  6. A Harris

    A Harris Well-Known Member

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    Wool can indeed be used as a generic term for a variety of animal fibers, not just that of sheep.
     
  7. mistahlee

    mistahlee Well-Known Member

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    Now that banksmiranda mentions it, perhaps Escorial would be a better choice for a vest.  I fear vicuna might wear or pill from friction with the jacket.  I'll have a look at what Reid & Taylor offers.
     
  8. hermes

    hermes Well-Known Member

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    i did a little looking up on this to satisfy my own curiousity and there is a technical difference which i was not aware of which i thought was interesting enough to post:

    wool is actually only from sheep as the hairs are solid strands whereas mohair, angora, cashmere, vicuna etc are all hairs that are hollow at the core, just like human hair

    there are references to alpaca, mohair, angora, cashmere, camel and vicuna as being listed as a sub-catagory of wool, called "wool speciality fibers", but not called wool alone

    as such, although all can be spun into yarns and knitted, wool is technically only from sheep
     
  9. banksmiranda

    banksmiranda Well-Known Member

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    As I mentioned in another thread, I saw some Oxxford clothing very recently(Oxxford "Crest") among which were garments made from Reid and Taylor's Escorial.  Brioni used to have an exclusive for suits and the like, but recently Escorial has become available to others.  The salesman told me that Oxxford is not yet able to label its Escorial jackets as such, though I don't know why since the fabric is no longer exclusive to Brioni for tailored clothing.  I'm sure that you could request Escorial for Brioni MTM, probably Oxxford as well.  Supposedly Super 180s suits can now be bought for ~$4000, quite a drop from the ~$8000+ price tag not too long ago.  Escorial actually costs a decent bit less than Super 180s; I have seen Brioni Escorial suits for less that $3000.
    Vicuna, as you all know, is insanely expensive. It's certainly up to the individual. If you can afford and truly appreciate vicuna, go ahead and buy it. Personally, I don't have the money, and really consider vicuna to be as expensive it is partially because of its fineness, and a good part simply because of its scarcity. The sometimes prohibitive cost of superfine fabrics is largely because of the limited quantities available. The high price tag ensures that those who want it before it becomes more widely available will pay a very hefty premium. Super 150s became somewhat less expensive after Super 170s and Super 180s were created, and Super 180s has done the same since Super 210s was introduced.
     
  10. mistahlee

    mistahlee Well-Known Member

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    Interesting.

    In my question, I called the substance "wool" because the Piana brochure referred to it as such.
     
  11. mistahlee

    mistahlee Well-Known Member

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    Man, my computer is acting up. Sorry.
     
  12. banksmiranda

    banksmiranda Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, I had said that Escorial suits can be had for much less than vicuna and that Escorial is roughly as "fine" as Super 180s.  This is only partially correct.  Escorial wool starts at about 17 microns and is produced in variations as low as 12 microns.  The 12-micron Escorial costs ~$1000/yd(at cost, not marked up), I was told by a tailor(who does not use it).  (High) tariffs must be considered. So a suit made of Escorial 12 micron may cost $10000 or almost certainly more, while a suit made of less-"fine" Escorial may cost significantly less, maybe $2500-$3000.
     

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