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Natural Fibers: Better For the Planet, Better For You

Natural Fibers: Better For the Planet, Better For You

Karukinka Outdoor uses natural fibers sourced from llama, alpaca, and sheep wool to create our high-performance, high-quality, slow-wear products that last. The choice to use natural over synthetic fibers was a conscious one. Our company’s social and environmental impact is important and natural fibers like wool not only hold up to the rugged conditions but are the better choice for our planet. 

Natural fibers differ from synthetics in many ways, which include fabrics such as polyester, rayon, and acrylic. The demand for these types of fibers have increased dramatically with each passing decade for several reasons: they are durable, cheap to produce, and cheap to sell. But their impact on the environment is staggering. Most synthetic fibers are petroleum products and require a complex processing procedure that produces pollutants during production. They are most often produced by factory workers that are underpaid if not abused by their employers. When washed by the consumer, microplastics and other synthetic fibers from these products make their way into our rivers, streams, and oceans. And cheaply-made garments are more likely to end up in a landfill when they wear or stretch. 

The cons of synthetics are staggering when paired next to the pros of natural fibers. We source our fibers locally in Patagonia and gather the raw material to spin it into yarn in our factory in the city of Porvenir. The process is sustainable, cruelty-free, and 100% handcrafted and it allows the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego to preserve their way of life and make meaningful careers out of their relationship with the land and the animals they care for. Everyone from our breeders to our weavers to our garment sewers to our designers are paid fair, livable wages and take pride in their work.

And the benefits of natural fibers goes far beyond their positive social and environmental impact. We truly believe they make the best product out there, which is why we stand by each product we make. 

Here are the fibers used in Karukinka Outdoor clothing, and why: 

Merino

Merino wool comes from Merino sheep and is known as being the softest sheep wool out there. It’s flexible and strong, unlike the scratchy, rough wool from other sheep, and provides excellent moisture wicking and temperature regulation. It repels stains and smells, meaning that it’s a great choice for adventure-loving outdoor enthusiasts looking to travel light and have one or two garments that will hold up to a multitude of experiences. 

Llama

Llamas, with their long-necks, big-eyes, and fluffy-fur, have been domesticated by the people of South American since before the Incan empire. They were originally bred to be strong and sturdy pack animals and today are shorn about every two years. Llama fiber has a hollow core, which makes it extremely insulating. It also resists oils and acids, chemicals, abrasions, and UV light. It’s flame retardant and known for its elasticity. 

Alpaca

Closely related to its cousin the llama, the alpaca produced fleece of such fine quality that it was traditionally reserved exclusively for royalty. The species almost died out after the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, who interbred it with the llama, but the value of alpaca’s soft fur was re-discovered in the mid-19th century and it continues to grow in popularity today. It’s known for its flexible strength, the speed in which it dries, its superior breathability, and its low static electricity. It doesn’t mat or pill like other natural fibers and it doesn’t hold debris. 

Guanaco

While it’s a member of the camel family and another cousin to the llama and alpaca, the Guanaco is not a domesticated animal. It’s a wild animal indigenous to South America with a reddish double-coat. It was once over-hunted to the precipice of extinction and now only about 500,000 guanacos live wild in South America. It is now a protected species and is sustainably captured and sheared by fiber collectors and then released back into the wild. Its fiber is used in high-end, luxury products and has a reputation for being both extremely soft and very warm. It’s water-resistant, very light-weight, durable, and dirt-resistant. 

Want to know more about our philosophy? Read Slow Fashion 101 here. 

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