Pier Luigi Loro Piana talks about Vicuña – The Golden Fleece.
Fashion house Loro Piana uses the vicuña’s rare and fine wool in their clothes and have created a programme to safeguard the species (as seen in our recent programme The Golden Fleece). Here Pier Luigi Loro Piana talks about sustainability and why it’s best for his company.
Q: What makes the vicuña so important to save?
The vicuña has a long lean frame, slim legs, and a small, delicate head with tiny ears. They are called ‘princess of the andes’ and are the smallest member of the alpaca, llama and guanaco family. I truly cherish these clever and gracious animals. They have huge brown eyes with long eyelashes that are simply mesmerizing when you get close enough to look into them.
In the Incan times the fleece of the vicuña was considered the “fibre of the gods”. They produce the finest fibre capable of being spun, and the annual total of raw fibre obtained is less then 5000 kg, as compared with 10 million kg of cashmere and 500 million kg of wool. The fleece obtained from each animal is about 250 grams, which after shearing and de-hairing is reduced to only 120 grams. You need to shear six vicuña for one pullover and 35 vicuña for one coat. That’s why it is so valuable.
Q: How did Loro Piana start their programme in Peru?
A: In the 1980’s, we made the first contact with the Peruvian Government and the communities of Campesinos, and in 1994 Loro Piana, at the head of a consortium, was allowed to re-introduce monitored and legally-sheared fibre in to the world market. In 2008, we acquired a property of more than 2000 hectares in order to create a private reserve for the vicuña in the Lucanas region on the Andean plateau named after Franco Loro Piana, our father. This initiative will help keep the animals in their natural habitat, furthering their observation, study and scientific research. We cooperate with the local communities to guarantee the species’ survival, the quantity and quality of the fibre produced, as well as the socio-economic value for the local people.
It was our father’s mission and something my brother and I wanted to expand. We are very proud of what we achieved so far and I’m sure our father would feel the same way.
Q: When and how did interest in sustainability and local producers start?
A: We want to continue celebrating the excellence and uniqueness of the world’s best raw materials. Ultrafine wool, as well as cashmere and vicuña, are the source of each Loro Piana creation, and we limit production of our clothes. We cherish our close relationships with local breeders, and these partnerships mean we can create the best possible fabrics.
Q: How do you support producers in other countries you source from?
A: We support breeders across Australia, New Zealand and Mongolia in our constant search for the finest in raw materials. For example the Record Bale is awarded to the Australian or New Zealand breeder who produces the finest bale of wool in the solar year, according to the Presidents of the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association and the Director of the New Zealand Stud Merino Breeders Society. The finest wool is reserved for 50 tailor made suits manufactured at the Loro Piana shops and in the world’s best tailor workshops.
Q: What is the benefit for Loro Piana?
A: Any support the brand can lend to farmers across the globe can only serve to strengthen our reputation as the manufacturer of the finest fabrics and garments made in a sustainable fashion. The hope is that with the creation of the new dedicated Loro Piana reserve, for example, the customer will become educated about the vicuña and the successful steps to reinvigorate the breed. We hope that all Loro Piana customers will become more educated about their purchases, and add to their understanding of the ethos behind the brand.
Q: How does this strengthen the brand in the current troubled climate?
A: Marketing an Italian brand such as ours entails getting the message across to other cultures. This helps make people aware of the meticulous quality control that stands behind each single item, and the tradition of excellence, skills and craftsmanship that go into every small detail. There is a story behind each of our products that needs to be told in order for them to understand what Loro Piana is all about.