We interview the founder of alpaca knitwear brand Plum of London to find out why they call their yarn ‘The Fibre of the Gods’
When did you launch the Plum of London brand and what were you doing in your previous life?
Plum of London launched in 2013. Previously, I worked in property in London (which feels a long time ago now!), but a series of events gave me the opportunity to follow my passion and to create high quality, sustainable clothing. Initially, I assisted a knitwear label in early 2012 which allowed me to experiment with many variations of yarn, where I soon discovered that alpaca was far superior to all others, both in terms of quality and benefits. It soon became evident that there was a lack of contemporary designed alpaca clothing and accessories available to the British luxury market which is when I started to pursue this opportunity.
What is so special about Alpaca, and in particular the Royal Alpaca that you use for Plum of London products?
The Inca society was literally ‘woven together’ by alpaca fleece with the very best reserved to clothe royalty and nobility. It has since been referred to as ‘’The Fibre of the Gods’’, but only now is Western society starting to appreciate its incredible attributes and true value – it’s as soft as cashmere, yet warmer and stronger. It also possess hypoallergenic, breathable and naturally antibacterial qualities as well as being odour, stain and wrinkle resistant, to name but a few! On paper, I believe there is no better yarn, whether natural or synthetic which surpasses alpaca and I feel it’s just a matter of creating contemporary styled pieces in colourful hues and allowing it to handle as well as it can before the wider public start to appreciate its true worth. Royal alpaca is the highest grade of alpaca and is actually better than baby alpaca (the more commonly known grade of alpaca yarn). It constitutes less than 1% of the world’s total alpaca fibre production which ensures that our range of knitwear is not only rare but highly exclusive. There are many preconceptions concerning alpaca but over time, I’m confident that I and others can educate and inform people of the incredible qualities of it and to offer them pure alpaca knitwear they’d enjoy wearing season upon season. After all, our brand is about sustainability!
Where do you source your yarn from and where are your products knitted?
All of our Royal alpaca yarn has been sourced from South America whilst the baby alpaca we currently use in our woven pieces hails from both South America and Britain. The original idea was to source all of the yarn from Britain but quality, supply and ultimately price put paid to that. With a desire however, to support Britain’s local and highly-skilled industries and realising that no other retailers were manufacturing alpaca clothing and accessories in Britain, I recognised the opportunity to work closely with knitting and weaving mills in England and Scotland to push the boundaries in knitwear fashion. These mills can all be attributed in helping me realise my ambitions: to create sustainable and eco-friendly luxury British knitwear using ethically sourced alpaca yarn. This remains firmly at the heart of the Plum of London brand.
What are the challenges of working with Alpaca?
It has been claimed that not since 1831, when Sir Titus Salt came upon a consignment of alpaca fleece, has there been any record of Britain working with alpaca yarn in this way and on this scale. This is obviously extremely exciting for me but nonetheless, created a lot of obstacles and issues that I had to overcome. All yarns are individual and possess unique characteristics but none more so than alpaca. At first, I feared that it may be difficult if not impossible to source mills who were willing to help me to achieve my aim but fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. The premise of the label is to create pure alpaca clothing and accessories, because as soon as alpaca is blended with other fibres it will immediately lose all of its benefits and qualities. However, there are plans to trial and sample other blends with the aim of creating a yarn which may be better suited for other types of clothing, which is very excitng!
The kids jumpers & cardigans are gorgeous, any plans to launch some adult Alpaca clothing?
Thanks! As you mentioned, the label launched with a range of adult accessories alongside childrenswear, whilst baby and home accessories complete the range, but yes, we do currently have products in development for our inaugural Menswear Collection with other plans to follow shortly after. Watch this space!