Vicugna pacos or Alpaca is a native species to South America. They are kept in herds that graze at high altitudes in the Andes of Ecuador, southern Peru, northern Bolivia and northern Chile, year round. They look similar to sheep, but are larger and have long erect necks. Alpacas only have fleece fibers, not woolen fibers, and are used for woven and knitted items including blankets, sweaters, hats, coats and other textile goods as well as ponchos in South America. Alpaca fiber comes in many different natural colors including 52 classified in Peru.
Alpaca in the textile industry primarily refers to the hair or fleece fiber of Peruvian alpaca. Indigenous sources the majority of our alpaca fiber from outside of Arequipa, Peru in the Puno and Cusco areas, close to many artisan work groups. These alpacas are free range roaming animals with pasture rotation. The alpacas are not fed hormones and do not receive chemical dippings for ticks or parasites. There are no chemical ingredients allowed on the land or animals.
There are many great benefits to using alpaca fiber. Much like sheep's wool in many regards, alpaca is lighter weight but warmer and softer to the touch (not prickly) than wool. It has only a minimum of lanolin fiber which makes it nearly hypoallergenic. This allows Indigenous to use this natural fiber in a variety of our knit and woven garments that will breathe naturally, provide warmth and be gentle to the skin.
Our undyed alpaca has a natural color spectrum which ranges from the whitest white to intense black and includes over twenty brown and grew tones. Undyed color combinations create a wide variety of natural beauty and diversity in our garments without using chemicals which adversely effect the environment.
Gossypium spp or Cotton plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, India and Africa. Varieties of the American species (Upland cotton) however, is the cotton grown today that dominates most commercial use. The soft fiber that grows around the seeds of the plant is spun into thread to make a soft, breathable textile, which is the most widely used natural-fiber cloth in clothing today.
Indigenous uses only certified organic cotton, which is grown without any harmful pesticides, herbicides, insecticides or artificial fertilizers. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), conventional cotton uses approximately 25% of the world's insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides.
Most of our organic cotton is produced in northern Peru near Trujillo and Amazonas, but some is also produced in the south. Our organic certification is provided by Skal, a non-profit that surveys and certifies organic production.
Organic cotton clothing is popular for a reason. The soft texture and breathable nature make it a very wearable fiber. In addition, the arrangement of the cellulose gives cotton a good degree of strength, durability and absorbency. Indigenous uses organic cotton in our lighter knits and wovens and with other natural fibers to add strength and soft texture to our blends.
It is believed that in ancient China, possibly as early as 6000 BC, silk fabric was first developed. Originally reserved for the kings of China, silk spread gradually through Chinese culture and then to many regions of Asia. Silk rapidly became a popular luxury fabric because of its soft texture and luster.
Today, the best-known type of silk is obtained from cocoons by the larvae of the Bombyx mori silkworm. They are most commonly raised in captivity so the silk may be used in textiles. "Wild silks" are produced by caterpillars (other than the mulberry silkworm) and cannot be artificially cultivated like Bombyx mori. A natural protein fiber, silk gets its shiny appearance from the triangular prism-like structure of the fibers which allows the silkcloth to refract light at different angles.
Indigenous silk fiber is sourced in South America. The silkworms are preserved in the process of obtaining the fiber. Typically, commercially reared silkworms are killed before the adult moths can emerge.
In addition to silk being a natural and renewable fiber, Indigenous uses silk to add stability and that soft, luxurious touch and sheer to our knitted blends.
The term "merino" originally was restricted to denote the wool of the merino sheep reared in Spain, which can be traced back as far as the 12th century. Today in the knitting trades, "merino" generally implies an article made from the very softest wool.
The utility of the fiber itself is evident in cold-weather and high-performance applications, offering superior breathability, temperature regulation, moisture control, and inherent anti-microbial properties. Unlike "traditional" wool, merino is much finer, softer, and itch-free for all but those with severe sensitivities or lanolin allergies.
Merino sheep are found all around the world but typically dominate in Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the western United States where sheep are bred for their wool rather than their meat. Indigenous sources merino wool fiber most often from the Andes in Argentina.
We are big fans of this natural fiber - as is anyone who has ever worn merino wool. The superior insulation, breathability, soft feel and lack of itch are excellent additives to our fiber blends. Typically a fiber used in fall and winter garments, merino wool can be found in both our wovens and knits.
Our Finishing and Dye Process
Indigenous works hard to ensure that dyes that create our beautiful color palette and complement our natural fibers do not harm the planet. Our low-impact dyeing programs intend to eliminate harmful chemicals and waste, providing innumerable environmental and health benefits.
Our yarns and dyeing processes are created within the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) and the parameters of the Oeko-Text Standard 100. While standards are evolving, we are active participants in several organic trade associations and certifying groups advancing legitimate, credible standards and transparency and accountability in organic and environmentally friendly production.
We make conscious decisions about the chemicals and substances we will use in the processing and dyeing stages of production, and will not use those we feel will harm the planet, even if they are in mainstream use by the textile industry.
Indigenous excludes all of the following that we consider environmentally toxic:
- Aromatic solvents
- All APEOs (i.e. nonylphenol, octylphenol, APEO-polymers)
- Fluorocarbons (such as PFOS and PFOA)
- Formaldehyde and other short-chain aldehydes
- Genetically modified organisms of any sort (GMOs)
- Halogenated solvents
- Heavy metals (except iron and low salt )
- Plasticizers such as PAH, phthalates, bisphenol
- Azo dyes and pigments that release carcinogenic arylamine
Indigenous also encourages, supports and expects sound environmental management from the mills that finish our fibers. We require each of our partner mills to:
- Have a written environmental policy
- Share data on energy and water consumption per kilogram of textile output
- Establish goals and procedures to reduce energy and water consumption per kilogram of textile output
- Monitor waste and discharges and set procedures to minimize waste and discharges
- Provide documentation of staff training in the conservation of water and energy, the proper and minimal use of chemicals and their correct disposal
Our environmental policies are intended to protect our workforce, their families and communities, our customers and the local and global ecosystem. We will continuously and transparently improve our practices, while encouraging the entire apparel industry to do the same. We do after all, share one world. Here at Indigenous we consider it our world, and our worth comes from how well we care for it.