Step Aside, Cashmere: Alpaca is the Hot Fiber in Our Fave Sweaters This Winter

Including a luxe crew on sale for $100

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Shots fired: I’m going to go for the alpaca sweater over cashmere every time. Recently, the large number of super-soft and stylish sweaters I’ve seen made of alpaca have made me an evangelist for the fiber, which comes from an animal called the alpaca that is a member of the camelid family (so, basically it’s a cousin to the llama and the camel). Mostly sourced from small herders in Peru, where the tiny-headed, shaggy-bodied animals have been raised for hundreds of years, alpaca is really popping off in designer and large retailer collections lately and I argue it’s superior to wool and cashmere: Why? Let’s look at the data:

According to a 2006 Texas A & M scientific study, Alpaca is superior to wool because it’s:

  • less resistant to compression (softer)
  • stronger
  • made of semi-hollow fibers that enhance insulation in a lightweight way

Not only that, but according to the Council of Fashion Designers Association:

  • goat and sheep hooves cause land degradation when those animals are grazing, while the padded feet of alpaca gently move over pastures without harming them
  • alpaca need less food and water than goats and sheep
  • alpaca hair is less itchy than wool because it does not contain lanolin, the fiber coating in wool that is an irritant
  • due to its long fibers, alpaca is less vulnerable to pilling than wool and cashmere
  • the wide range of naturally occurring alpaca colors (from whites and browns to grays and blacks) means designers can make garments in a wide range of colors without dyeing

TLDR: All these are great reasons to opt for alpaca, but primarily, I reach for my alpaca sweaters mostly because of how they look—the fibers are thicker than the cashmeres I own, and therefore look more chunky and textural when woven into the boxy crew necks and cardigans I prefer. And yes, the extra lightweight softness is a major attribute, too. Here are some of the latest and greatest alpaca pieces I’m loving now.

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1.   Jenni Kayne Alpaca Cocoon Cardigan


  • oversized fit
  • coordinated faux-horn buttons


  • limited colorways

Jenni Kayne

  • Sizes: XXS to XXL
  • Fabric: 70 percent baby alpaca, 23 percent polyamide, 7 percent merino wool

We’ve long been obsessed with Jenni Kayne’s alpaca blanket, and this chunky v-neck sweater is basically a version we can wear in public. Note: “baby alpaca” isn’t derived from young animals, it’s collected from an under-layer of alpaca hair that’s even finer and silkier than regular alpaca, while still maintaining the same insulation, strength and hypoallergenic qualities.

2.   Everlane The Alpaca Crew


  • 15 colors
  • slouchy fit


  • cuffs are cut a bit narrow


  • Sizes: XXS to XXXL
  • Fabric: 58 percent alpaca, 34 percent nylon (21 percent recycled), 8 percent Merino wool

The airy ribbed knit on this boyfriend sweater makes it feel lightweight (thanks, nylon fibers) and look way more expensive than it is.

3.   Quince Baby Alpaca-Wool Crew


  • double-ribbed neckline
  • cropped style


  • limited colorways
  • raglan sleeve might appear to narrow shoulders


  • Sizes: XS to XL
  • Fabric: baby alpaca wool, extra-fine merino wool, and nylon

A shorter length ensures petites don’t get lost under all that knit fabric; the smooth hand resists pilling.

4.   lululemon Alpaca Wool-Bend V-Neck Sweater


  • ultra-lightweight
  • contrast ribbed neck and hem


  • single colorway


  • Sizes: XS to XL
  • Fabric: body - 26 percent polyamide, 25 percent alpaca hair, 24 percent Merino wool, 22 percent recycled polyester, 3 percent elastane

The oversized fit of this V-neck makes it great for layering and the ribbed contrast hem and neck kick it up a notch from the usual boyfriend sweater. Plus, that lavender colorway is going to make you happy just by slipping it on.

5.   Frame Marled Crop Cardigan


  • cropped length
  • ribbed hem


  • branded buttons are hard to match


  • Sizes: medium, large
  • Fabric: 64 percent alpaca, 18 percent Pima cotton, 17 percent nylon, 1 percent wool

Alpaca plus cotton makes for a super-soft feel and the oatmeal colorway is go-with-everything cold-weather perfection.

6.   AllSaints Britt Open Stitch Alpaca Blend Sweater


  • flattering 20-inch length
  • ultra lightweight


  • open weave slightly see-through


  • Sizes: XS to L
  • Fabric: 69 percent alpaca, 31 percent nylon

Is it a grunge throwback? A nouvelle vague style reference? This chunky ribbed knit with horizontal stripes is kicky and cool.

7. Doen Anika Sweater


  • handmade in Peru
  • cuddy cable knit


  • pricey


  • Sizes: XS to XL
  • Fabric: 74 percent Suri alpaca, 22 percent Merino wool, 4 percent polyamide

This hand-knit chunky sweater is heirloom quality, and the bright pumpkin yarn is your pumpkin spice latte in luxury sweater form.

8.   Polo Ralph Lauren Fair Isle Jumper


  • intarsia knit
  • ribbed cuffs and hem


  • pricey

Polo Ralph Lauren

  • Sizes: M to XL
  • Fabric: alpaca wool 85 percent, polyamide 15 percent

This dark brown turtleneck looks like the slouchy ski sweater you’d wear on the slopes at a fancy ski resort and look great with it over a maxi skirt and boots in front of the fireplace after.

9.   Zara Basic Alpaca and Wool Blend Sweater


  • round neck
  • cropped


  • Hem is unribbed


  • Sizes: S to XL
  • Fabric: 34 percent alpaca, 33 percent wool, 29 percent polyamide, 4 percent elastane

This lightweight and well-priced long-sleeve sweater has an attractive rounded neck and drape that is both sexy and ladylike. It's available in powder blue and taupe.

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...

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