CLARENCE, NY - At the Diamond Alpaca Farm in Clarence there are ideas churning about the future of fashion and how alpacas may contribute. Sure, there are tax incentives for raising the animals but there's a bigger idea. There's a store here on the farm that sells Alpaca wear, everything from hats to socks, but most of the items are made in Peru.
"We, in the perfect world, would be able to make a product from our alpacas and other alpacas from Western New York and America, but the products would be made here in Western New York," said Katherine Smith from Diamond Alpacas of Clarence.
Enter Holly Henderson. She entered a design contest where the idea is to trim the waste of fashion. She wants to work with farms like this one and some 40 others in western New York to produce Alpaca-wear in Buffalo. The grand prize of the contest is cash which she would use for a machine where she can design the clothing on a computer which then takes the measurements and electronically makes the garments from Alpaca fleece. She says it's a great way to utilize something "made in America" and a way to get people working.
"We have lots of fashion students coming out of Buffalo State and other colleges that we want to employ in the fashion business," Henderson said. "It's a fun field and there isn't a lot of opportunity right now and want to create that opportunity and be able to bring fashion back to Buffalo."
And since no alpacas have been allowed to be imported into the U-S since 1998 and since we're told only a quarter million alpacas exist in this country, there's great room for growth. Katherine Smith says the textile industry could support one million alpacas.
But it does cost you more at the checkout.
"It's a very precious fiber," said Henderson.
Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Neiman Marcus all carry some alpaca fleece items, which is said to be stronger than wool and softer than cashmere, and at a premium cost. Henderson thinks her modern approach to design and effort to create and produce here locally could be the start of a new trend that pays of economically, and like her contest suggests, eliminates bags of fleece that otherwise would go to waste.
We're told the alpacas are sheared once a year and are not hurt in the process.
A panel of judges and votes from the public will determine if Henderson and her team win the competition and money for the clothing machine they want. But Henderson says if they don't win, she plans to pursue this any way. She thinks it's a great idea that's not being tapped into right now.