How Much Should An Alpaca Garment Cost? (Online VS. Peru)
Have you fallen in love with the softness of alpaca wool? Are you a sustainable, conscientious shopper ready to invest in something durable? Or are you heading to Peru and looking for some guidelines on what to expect when you’re buying alpaca locally? Whoever you are, consider this...
The price of an alpaca woolen garment will depend highly on the quality, the stitch, the pattern, and its size. It will also depend on where you buy the item: online or in Peru. Expect to pay more for a higher percentage of alpaca wool, and another 50% more if it’s made of baby alpaca.
Here’s a list of factors that can influence the price of an alpaca woolen item:
Online VS. Peru
Alpaca Wool Content
Alpaca VS. Baby Alpaca VS. Vicuña
Handmade or Machine Made
Woven or Knitted Garments
Below you will find an estimate of what you can expect to pay per item. I have limited the estimates to compare online shops and high-end stores in Peru. I am not including markets or other local places in Peru or elsewhere, because it would be very hard to provide an accurate estimate of the prices.
Before looking into the factors that influence the price of an alpaca woolen item, let’s have a look at the actual prices, first.
The Price of Alpaca Woolen Sweaters
One of the most common and worthwhile items in everyone’s wardrobe would be a sweater. Sweaters can be worn year round, indoors, outdoors, and for many different occasions. Investing in an alpaca woolen sweater will give you the security that you will have something to wear in every weather, climate and circumstance.
Alpaca woolen sweaters might seem expensive, but they will last you a lifetime - and if taken care of well, they might even last generations!
To keep it somewhat simple, I assume a sweater has a not-too-complicated model and fit and is made of 100% alpaca wool, like a simple V-neck.
The difference in price is because of the greater variety offered in Peru. A sweater is such a common garment, with so many possibilities, that there simply just is a bigger price range.
The Price of Alpaca Woolen Scarves
Scarves are an easy introduction to the world of alpaca. They are functional, small, and versatile and come in many styles, sizes and shapes.
To keep this chart somewhat simple, I am assuming a scarf to be long, but not very wide. It is the type of accessory that you wrap around your neck once and combine with a jacket to keep you warm. The sizes are estimates.
The price difference can be explained by the variety of scarves that you will find in Peru, compared to online shops. Of course, this is the result of my search efforts and might be different for you - especially if you are looking for something more specific.
The Price of Alpaca Woolen Shawls
Shawls are bigger than scarves and can be worn in more different ways. Apart from wearing it to protect your neck and throat from the cold, you can also wear a scarf as a more decorative fashion item.
Alpaca wool is perfect for draping - it has a naturally loose, casual look because of the fiber texture. Alpaca wool therefore lends itself perfectly for dinner parties and nights out.
You will find a great variety of patterns, sizes, models, techniques when it comes to shawls.
Some will be knitted, others will be woven. Especially in Peru, expect to find many different patterns, colors and combinations of those - hence the higher price. For those who are looking for something exquisite and unique, expect to pay a little more for very exclusive items.
The Price of Alpaca Woolen Ruanas
A ruana is one of the more common uses of alpaca wool - even though you may not have heard of it at all. The name ruana is used for a poncho-like wrap, almost a blanket with a better (flattering!) fitting pattern.
A ruana is a super elegant item that can be worn as a coat or sweater, or used as a blanket on the couch. It’s multi versatile and incredibly soft, warm, and comfortable.
A ruana might seem expensive, but it is an investment that will enrich your life!
The Price of Alpaca Woolen Hats
Hats, yay! Again, there is such a great variety of options when it comes to hats. What you will find in Peru will definitely be more exclusive than what you can find online.
Hats in Peru, specifically in Cusco, are called Chullos. They are traditional hats, knitted, with beautiful patterns and colors. They have little side patches that cover the ear and playful pom-poms at the top. They are much more labor intensive to produce and are therefore much more expensive and most likely only available in Peru.
A regular beanie will be cheaper and will be much easier to find online.
The Price of Alpaca Woolen Blankets
Blankets or throws of alpaca wool will turn every couch into heaven. From special travel blankets to simple throws, you will be able to find a great variety of blankets both online and in local stores.
Alpaca woolen blankets are rare in Peru. The price for blankets can be kept lower in stores and webshops outside of Peru. The higher demand provides for lower prices. I believe it is a western thing to have throws and blankets neatly rolled up next to your couch or a relaxing chair. There is no such habit in Peru.
Now that we have seen the prices of alpaca woolen items, let’s have a look at the reasons for the differences in price.
1. Online VS. Peru
Not everyone has the privilege to travel to Peru and shop for some alpaca woolen garments. However, you can expect to pay less for an alpaca woolen item closer to the source. So, buying alpaca wool in Peru is of course a great way to save cost, if you’re already headed down South.
Peru is the natural habitat of the alpaca and the people in the Andes have been using alpaca wool for centuries. Needless to say, you will find some of the most beautiful, best quality alpaca woolen items in Peru.
Buy at Local Markets
One option to go alpaca-shopping in Peru is to go to local or tourist markets. You will be able to find plenty of options in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, Puno and the Sacred Valley. Keep in mind that you might want to know how to recognize real alpaca wool.
Expect the prices at local markets to be cheap for mixed content. Around $15 for a sweater, $5 for accessories like hats and mittens. You might need to barter to get to the right price.
Buy at Trustworthy Shops
If you want to go for a safer option where you are sure that whatever price and content is given on the label is actually true, go to high-end stores like Kuna and Sol. These stores can be found everywhere in Peru, even at the airports! Expect to pay more, but also expect to find 100% alpaca wool, baby alpaca, and even vicuña without fear of getting ripped off.
But from Local Communities
Another more supportive option, is to visit local, indigenous communities. Chinchero is especially known for its fabrics and has real art for sale. Style might be much more eccentric than what you are willing to wear though, so keep that in mind.
Shopping alpaca wool online is another great option. Depending on your search skills, you will find similar prices as in Peru, but keep in mind that additional costs will be made for shipping, taxes, and exchange rates!
If you do find an item that is more expensive that what you would have expected it to cost in Peru, keep in mind that shipping wool or garments from South America to another country will increase the price!
2. Alpaca Wool Content
The alpaca wool content will highly influence the price of an alpaca woolen item. My personal recommendation would be to opt for 100% (baby) alpaca wool if possible. Blends can be of great quality, too, but only if they are blended with high quality, natural, fibers, like merino, cotton, or linen.
Synthetic blends will decrease the quality of a garment, and it is exactly the quality that makes alpaca wool so worthwhile.
If you’re not aware of the qualities of alpaca wool yet, read my article about it!
However, if you’re a bankrupt backpacker and you want to pick up some souvenirs, or replace one of your smelly sweaters, you could obviously opt for the cheap ones. Synthetics are added to decrease cost. There are also benefits to synthetic fibers as they can make a piece fit for washing and lighter in weight.
3. Alpaca VS. Baby Alpaca VS. Vicuña
There is a different range for items that are made of alpaca wool, baby alpaca wool, or even vicuña wool.
Alpaca wool is exclusive, yet reasonably fair priced.
Baby alpaca wool is on average 50% more expensive than alpaca wool. So if you could buy a small 100% alpaca woolen scarf for $60, expect to pay at least $90 for a baby alpaca one.
Vicuña is another camelid-family member that is super rare and extremely exclusive. You can easily add two zeros to the price tag of a vicuña woolen item. Seriously, don’t be surprised if you see a tiny scarf for $4,000. It’s real.
4. Handmade or Machine Made
An important factor that influences the price of alpaca wool items is the way it has been produced. You will find that most garments are machine made.
A simple trick to discover whether something is handmade or machine made is to look on the inside (or back) of an item. If you see little knots that are uneven and not very uniform, you can assume it is a handmade item. Machine made items will have perfectly uniform front and backsides.
There is a difference between machines used at home and machines used for large-scale mass production.
The former still uses a fair bit of hand labor that can only be provided by a “real” human knitter. Machine knitting that is suitable for at home-work requires the knitter to put on every stitch manually, review the work manually, and finish the work manually.
It is pointless to discuss whether one is better than the other, but it is worth mentioning that hand-knitting is decreasing because the true value for the amount of work that is put into a hand-knitted piece is often highly underestimated. With machine knitting decreasing the amount of labor put into something, there is no competition left for hand-knitters.
5. Woven or Knitted Garments
One trade that is very unlikely to be replaced with machines (in Peru at least) is weaving. In communities like Chinchero this is a very highly valued craft. You will find beautiful garments that are woven, from skirts to bags, and scarfs to table runners.
Weaving is generally done with one thread that is looped, then interlocked and so on. Knitting doesn’t have any edges, while weaving involves multiple threads over and under in a criss-cross pattern. It can unravel at the edges, because it is not secured there like knitted garments are. In end-products, woven fabric will be secured and finished properly.
Apart from the design and the structure that is different between weaving and knitting, there will also be a different price tag on each.
While knitted garments generally use more wool, which in itself can raise the price, woven items require more labor, which in turn raises the price for woven items.
Keep these two things in mind when you are looking for alpaca wool. The price will also depend on the method that is used (machine or manual).