The Princess of the Andes

Vicuña’s wool is the fiber of the rich. It is worn by the wealthiest men on earth, the only ones who can afford a coat worth thirty thousand dollar. Five centuries ago, there was only one man in the world who had the right to wear it: it was the Inca king, the ruler of the immense Andean empire. The fiber of vicuña – “the princess of the Andes” – is soft, glossy, light as none other. Yet, in spite of being so light, it provided a warmth nowhere to be found. In the times of the Incas, the vicuñas numbered as many as one million animals but the conquistadores exterminated them. For fifteen years now, selling vicuña wool is legal, but only if the shearing is performed on animals that are alive. It was mostly the local communities that benefitted from it, as only they are allowed to shear the animals and sell the wool.