On the remote grasslands of the Chilean Andes plateau, Aymara herders have eked out an existence by selling fibers from their llamas and alpacas—until harsh conditions and low pay sent many to cities to find more promising work. Jorge and Isabel del Carpio launched Innovation Against Poverty to help preserve the Aymara and their ancestral skills, such as spinning, dyeing, weaving and knitting, while creating a steady demand for a sustainable resource. Consulting textile experts, herders, artisans and government agencies, the del Carpios established a start-up company producing yarns called Royal Llama: The Fiber of Friendship. Beta samples of llama yarn impressed sources in Chile, the U.S. and Germany, and a visit to the National Needlearts Association show in Columbus, Ohio, attracted more attention to Royal Llama yarns.
The natural softness of llama fiber rivals any luxury fiber, but the hollow fiber possesses other beneficial properties: it is strong, durable, warm, naturally regulates moisture, is antimicrobial, does not pill, and is washable and flame retardant. The company presented its first llama fiber yarn to Chilean President SebastiÃ¡n PiÃ±era in spring 2012. A pilot project launched the fiber on Kickstarter; so far, 501 buyers have purchased Royal Llama yarn products, exceeding the pilot project’s target financial goal.
The Chilean government, recognizing the potential (in Peru and Bolivia camelid fiber exports are a multi-million-dollar business), selected Innovation Against Poverty for Start Up Chile, a program to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs. The company also received a Corporate Innovation Recognition from Chile’s Export Promotion Bureau. For more, visit www.kickstarter.com.