Why does a Loro Piana jacket cost more than $19,000?
Why does a Loro Piana pure vicuña jacket cost more than US$15,000 ($A19,300)? Or why can one made from the world’s finest 12-micron merino wool command nearly US$24,000 ($A30,900)? A deeper look into the luxury house’s painstaking process — beginning with vicuña in the Peruvian Andes, sheep in the Australian Outback, or even goats in the Mongolian hinterlands, and ending at a traditional but high-tech factory in Italy’s Piedmont region — reveals why Loro Piana’s designs are such precious commodities.
On the range
At the Dr. Franco Loro Piana private nature reserve, located in a remote stretch of the Peruvian Andes, the once nearly-extinct vicuña is protected and studied.
Wild and free
Every two years, the vicuña are captured, sheared, and released by Peruvian farmers, whose Incan ancestors called the animals’ supremely soft and warm fleece the “fibre of the gods.”
The sheared vicuña fleece is examined and sorted — traditionally by the women in the community — before being washed and readied for inspection.
The very fine vicuña fibres are examined by hand for impurities before being shipped to Loro Piana’s facilities in Piedmont, where scientific inspections and analyses begin.
At Loro Piana’s Roccapietra plant, fibres are magnified by 34,000 to assess thickness and quality. For baby cashmere, the individual scales must be less than 500 nanometers thick; a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers.
As the pioneer of baby cashmere, Loro Piana convinced herders in Mongolia and northern China to set aside the underfleece from Hircus goat kids, which are sheared before they reach 12 months.
Fine and fluffy
Once cleaned, purified, and inspected — a sequence that involves taking anywhere from 450 to 1050 readings — the lots of white fibres (baby cashmere shown) are prepared for processing.
Strength in numbers
The precious fibre is passed through toothed rollers that delicately comb it to generate the correct ratio of fibre to air, producing these thick, fluffy strands.
The weaving and blending process starts with ribbons of long fibre that are combed, rearranged, twisted, and layered to yield the final yarn for textiles.
The weaving process hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years; threads are fed into traditional looms that produce strong, resilient materials.
Every inch of material is scrutinised by menders who identify the tiniest imperfections and repair them by reconstructing the weave with tiny needles or picking out impurities using tweezers.
Soft and snuggly
One baby goat produces a mere 30 grams of fibre, and it can require nearly 19 fleeces to make a Loro Piana sweater like the cable-knit crew neck shown here.