For the ultimate winter-wardrobe pick-me-up, invest in a coat made out of one of the most luxurious and rare materials in the world—vicuña. Yes, coats, jackets, and scarves made out of vicuña often retail for three or four times more than similar items in fine cashmere and wool, but the price difference here is not without good reason.
Made from the South American vicuña camelid, which roam the Andes Mountains, the super-soft, fine, and resilient wool has been coveted for decades—particularly by Incan royalty. Today, it is in scarce supply because vicuña is an endangered species and, therefore, is shorn under tightly controlled conditions. The South American animal was nearly brought to extinction by over-farming during the colonial era before being declared endangered in the 1960s. Since then, the population has recuperated thanks to the installation of protected habitats and a return to cruelty-free Incan shearing practices. Under these strict guidelines, mature vicuñas are caught, shorn, and returned to the wild—a practice which has dramatically decreased the threat of poaching. This process also ensures that each vicuña can lend its wool to multiple garments over the course of its life—as it can take up to 35 of the demure animals to produce enough wool for a single coat.
At the forefront of protecting vicuña is the Italian luxury goods brand Loro Piana. It has worked with the Peruvian government and Andean communities since 1994 to rehabilitate the vicuña’s habitat and today the company controls much of the vicuña supply globally. In 2008, the company purchased nearly 5,000 acres in the Peruvian Andes to create a reserve where the shy animal can be observed, studied, and shorn safely.
It is no surprise that Loro Piana offers some of the best selection of vicuña coats, jackets, and accessories. Created in an array of classic styles, the coats will surely stand the test of time. The Double cobalt blue topcoat is our pick for a piece that will serve as a bold and failsafe transitional piece in both the spring and the autumn ($16,000). This particular style is crafted from a blend of vicuña and baby cashmere using Loro Piana’s “double fabric” technique. The process forgoes a traditional silk lining for an additional layer of a vicuña and baby cashmere blend so you get to experience the supple softness of the coat from both the inside and the outside.
For a coat that will stand up in the last of winter’s storms, go for the Martingala ($20,500). The vicuña used here is treated with Loro Piana’s exclusive storm system technology, which ensures that it is both wind and water resistant. The classic cut and rich camel color of the coat will ensure that it will be one of the most worn items in your wardrobe—making it worth every penny. (loropiana.com)