The characteristics of vicuna wool are the result of over a million years of evolution in an extreme cold and rigid natural environment. Also known as Vicuña, the most precious wool in the world takes its name from a rare and wild South American camelid renowned for its fleece composed of long fibres, very fine and yet very resistant that give a prestigious and lustrous fabric, that is exceptionally soft and warm.
The exotic Vicuñas live among the Andes mountains on the snow-capped peaks that from Lake Titicaca in Peru cross Bolivia to the North-West of Argentina. Small golden fur animals considered sacred by the Incas population, their history has its origins in the legends handed down by local shepherds. It is said that when the world was just beginning, Wiracocha, creator of the universe, unhappy with the misguided human conduct convinced himself of the need to punish men. Upon becoming aware of his evil intentions, a young "auki", an immortal being, persuaded Wiracocha to wait before unleashing his anger, and so he was sent to the earth, among men, to teach them how to cultivate the land, to spin wool, to make use of the wonders of nature. Auki left the world of the Gods only on the condition that, once the work was done, he would return to heaven. Things went a little differently. Before leaving, Auki wanted to inspect his work one last time, went to the fields and there he met a young woman. A beautiful, slim girl, with big almond eyes, he fell in love with her forgetting his promise. The months passed, two children were born from their love, and Wiracocha learned of the misdeed. With the intention of punishing the betrayal, blinded by anger, he went down to earth but when he saw the beauty of the newborn babies, he was enchanted. He did not forego the punishment, but instead of destroying him, he decided to transform Auki and his young wife into snowy mountains and the children into creatures whose appearance would recall the grace of their mother and the golden splendour of their father's heavenly origins. This is how Wiracocha created the Vicuñas, leaving them free to wander forever in the immense Andean steppes.
Today, eighty percent of the world's Vicuña population lives in Peru within large protected nature reserves, bred by small local communities in traditional ways. For thousands of years, before the discovery of the Americas, the vicuna was the object of great veneration, with its extremely precious wool used exclusively to dress the royals, the "children of the sun" of the Andean populations. In the 16th century, when the Spanish arrived in Tahuantinsuyo, as the Inca Empire was then called, there were three million Vicuñas. The lack of foresight of the Spanish crown brought the species to the brink of extinction, until the sixties of the twentieth century, when the world population of the small camelid was reduced to less than five thousand specimens. Only then was a slow process of safeguarding initiated, whose objectives were achieved only towards the end of the century. In 1976, vicuna was included in the world list of species in need of the highest degree of protection within the UN international convention.
Because of its rarity and extraordinary beauty, vicuna wool is nicknamed "the fleece of the Gods". Famous for its warmth, finesse and splendour, it owes its extraordinary properties to the tiny scales located on the hollow fibres of the mantle that trap the air, making the wool insulating, extremely warm and comfortable. That of vicuna is finer than any other wool in the world with a diameter of 12 microns, is even thinner than cashmere that reaches 15 microns, so sensitive to chemical treatment that is usually left in its natural colour, a warm golden brown.
The vicuna wool is incredibly rare, the yield of the individual animals is very low, an adult animal provides about one hundred grams of fibre every two years. Furthermore, the vicuna has not been domesticated by man, it lives in the wild, its mantle is taken from animals caught in the wild, then released in full respect of the most ancient breeding techniques.
The rural communities then proceed to the removal of the coarser hairs that grow in the soft fur. The softer, purer and thinner fibres will then be thoroughly washed in lukewarm water and dried in the open air. The whole process is carried out by expert hands, the techniques are delicate, very ancient, handed down from generation to generation among the Andean communities. The exclusive preference for manual processing at all stages of production allows us to preserve the wonderful qualities of the raw material unaltered, and also to keep the ecosystem intact and to protect the local culture. Once the purest fibre is obtained, the textile processing of Vicuña wool that takes place in Malo's workshops is similar to the creation of a work of art.