Identifying Vicuna

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by pejsek, Nov 29, 2006.

  1. pejsek

    pejsek Senior member

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    I wonder if anybody has any tips about how to identify vicuna--aside from a tag, of course. At the thrift store yesterday I saw an old black bespoke coat (tailored by Richard Bennett, NY 12-61) that I suspect may have been vicuna. It was extremely soft and at the same time seemed denser, lighter, and stronger than what I would have suspected with cashmere. Does that sound about right? Does one just know vicuna when one sees it? The coat, btw, was very nice but unfortunately didn't quite fit. I've looked on-line for any mention of Richard Bennett, but all I can find is a tailoring outfit in Chicago (which might very well be a continuation/successor, I suppose). The coat was quite ingeniously designed to be at home both here in California and in colder climes as well, with a now-vanished zip-out lining and fastenings on the collar for fur or s. thing else warm and substantial; stripped to its bare bones it would be just right for San Francisco.
     


  2. pejsek

    pejsek Senior member

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    Truly no vicuna spotters? Well, I guess the good news is that vicuna is among the rarest of luxury fibers and, as a result, nearly always carries a tag--even on custom/bespoke items. But still...
     


  3. Vintage Gent

    Vintage Gent Senior member

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    I think it's simply a function of so few of us having had any contact with vicuna. I've been thrifting in earnest for more than a decade, and only twice have I knowingly come into contact with a garment made from the fabric. Aside from the label, I wouldn't have been able to distinguish it from especially nice cashmere.
     


  4. AlanC

    AlanC Minister of Trad

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    I wonder if it has any similarities with alpaca as the two are related beasts to my understanding.

    We need to get that fellow from Ask Andy who found the vintage vicuna on ebay and had Oxxford make him an overcoat from it. Apparently there's a recent write up in the Robb Report on it.
     


  5. Bergdorf Goodwill

    Bergdorf Goodwill Senior member

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    pejsek,

    Richard Bennett (and I assume this is the same Richard Bennett) either operates out of or has a location about a ten minute walk from my apartment.

    "Richard Bennett Clothiers, tailor
    custom suits and clothing for men
    12 East Lincoln Street
    Columbus, OH"

    I find a ton of this stuff in thrift stores, seemingly of varying quality. Some of it is really, really nice and some of it seems a bit middling. I assume this is a product of the customers' desires/price points/what have you.

    Post a photo of the logo and I can confirm that we're dealing with the same thing.
     


  6. Bergdorf Goodwill

    Bergdorf Goodwill Senior member

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    I wonder if it has any similarities with alpaca as the two are related beasts to my understanding.

    We need to get that fellow from Ask Andy who found the vintage vicuna on ebay and had Oxxford make him an overcoat from it. Apparently there's a recent write up in the Robb Report on it.


    Alpaca is much heavier and tends to be coarse. It is very warm, however. If my fading understanding of animals and Spanish-speaking countries is functioning, I believe vicuña live at higher elevations, are smaller, and are in more short supply.

    [​IMG]

    Here are some alpacas hanging out.

    [​IMG]

    Here's a vicuña.
     


  7. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt The Liberator Dubiously Honored

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    Vicuna just feels like a really nice, warm cashmere. It is not some secret fabric with totally different properties.
     


  8. Tomasso

    Tomasso Senior member

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    Vicuna just feels like a really nice, warm cashmere. It is not some secret fabric with totally different properties.

    +1
     


  9. mack11211

    mack11211 Senior member

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    Just ask that salesman in SUNSET BOULEVARD whispering in William Holden's ear when he goes shopping with Gloria Swanson.
     


  10. pejsek

    pejsek Senior member

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    Thanks for the replies. My thrifting experience with vicuna has been about the same as Vintage Gent's. I've only seen a handful of pieces over the years and they've all been marked. I did buy a vicuna coat for my wife a few years back--camel-colored with a flamboyant fur collar and an old I. Magnin label. It was on the Halloween rack (and I also would have assumed it was cashmere had it been missing the label).
    Interesting of you to bring up the alpaca-vicuna connection, Alan. Last year I bought an old Italian coat (again for my wife) with an interesting label proudly proclaiming its manufacture from "Altuna." I had hoped this might be some sort of proprietary blend of alpaca and vicuna, but as far as I can tell it's just a really nice alpaca.
    BG, The Richard Bennett connection, I'm afraid, may be even murkier than the topic of vicuna. I also seem to recall seeing pieces from time-to-time (and of varying quality) marked Richard Bennett. In fact, I think Bullock & Jones may have carried some pretty nice suits and jackets made for them by Richard Bennett back in the 1960s and 1970s. But this particular coat is the only Richard Bennett item I've seen with a typical bespoke label (cutomer's name, order #, date) inside the breast pocket. I actually can't post pictures of the logo because I didn't buy the coat--I do s.times leave nice things on the racks; my way of cultivating the goodwill of the thrifting gods.
    And iammatt, while I would never quibble with your assessment of cloth, surely there's something besides rarity and slaughter (though let's not underestimate those) that accounts for the premium commanded by vicuna. I seem to recall strength and amazingly light weight invoked among the special virtues of vicuna (but maybe those are just shorthand ways of saying it feels like really nice cashmere).
     


  11. Virginia Dandy

    Virginia Dandy Senior member

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    I saw a vicuna odd jacket at Field not long ago - camel in color. Thought the nap was a little more fuzzy than one usually sees with cashmere - but I suppose that was more a function of the mill/finishing. I gather that it was a piece of goods supplied by the customer - a Peruvian fellow - and that it was woven in Peru - so I speculate that, while really nice, could have been better if milled elsewhere.

    I guess the novelty/scarcity has appeal - but I didn't think that it was noticeably any better than a good cashmere.
     


  12. Vintage Gent

    Vintage Gent Senior member

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    Just ask that salesman in SUNSET BOULEVARD whispering in William Holden's ear when he goes shopping with Gloria Swanson.
    "As long as the lady is paying for it, why not take the vicuna?"
     


  13. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt The Liberator Dubiously Honored

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    And iammatt, while I would never quibble with your assessment of cloth, surely there's something besides rarity and slaughter (though let's not underestimate those) that accounts for the premium commanded by vicuna. I seem to recall strength and amazingly light weight invoked among the special virtues of vicuna (but maybe those are just shorthand ways of saying it feels like really nice cashmere).

    Well, I think that they can be lighter because they are warmer per oz than cashmere, but I do not know about stronger.

    Recently, I tried on four vicuna blazers that were all made for the same man. None of them made me want to buy anything vicuna, but they were all very soft and nice to touch.

    If you are really interested in finding out about the stuff, go in to the downtown Loro Piana store. They have a ton of it on display for the holidays along with some literature. The price is, shall we say, high.
     


  14. AlanC

    AlanC Minister of Trad

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    Dropping by the Robb Report website, I did find this extensive article on vicuna: Andean Gold.
     


  15. Tomasso

    Tomasso Senior member

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    "As long as the lady is paying for it, why not take the vicuna?"
    ][​IMG]
     


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