Eagle-eyed buyers and editors may notice a curious uptick in the use of alpaca -- a mohair-like material usually associated with momish twinsets -- on the runways this season. And that's no accident: In fact, the Peruvian government is compensating designers for doing so.
About four months ago, the Trade Commission of Peru reached out to several designers -- Nanette Lepore, Timo Weiland, Rachel Comey and Charles Harbison were among those who agreed to participate -- offering to fly them down to Peru to tour the country's biggest alpaca farms and manufacturing facilities, and to see how the hair is sheared (humanely) from the animals. They were then each given stipends of $5,000* with which to purchase alpaca to use in their runway and production samples.
It's a simple and a very clever idea, one that will likely pay dividends to that part of the Peruvian economy. The Trade Commission is hoping that the initiative will encourage those designers to continue using the fiber in seasons to come, kickstarting a trend that will spread to other designers, as well as their mass market imitators. "We want to get the fashion market to understand alpaca," a spokesperson for the Trade Commission says. "We want a trendier set of designers pushing this. Ralph Lauren uses it, but you don't see it on the runway. We want to put alpaca on the runway."
*Update: A second spokesperson for the Trade Commission said that stipends in fact ranged from $1,200 dollars up to $5,000, and that some designers did not receive stipends because they were already planning to use alpaca in their collections.