Making her home in the rolling hills of Sonoma Valley wine country, Sandra Jordan may live a world away from her native Peru, but her homeland is never far from her heart. For more than a decade, Sandra has worked diligently to reintroduce the design world to the luxury of alpaca, an ancient domestic animal whose fleece was once lavished on Incan royalty.
Sandra’s company, Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca, currently offers the world’s only extensive line of luxury alpaca textiles for the home. Manufactured entirely in Peru using time-honored weaving techniques and hand finishing, Prima Alpaca reinvents this ancient art of fine alpaca production for a modern audience, including a spectacular palette of solid colors as well as beautiful sheers, plush textures and her latest introduction, Casa de Campo, a line of casual weaves inspired by her childhood in Peru.
The use of fine alpaca fleece dates back thousands of years—the Incas cherished the fiber, calling it “the Gold of the Andes.” The process of making alpaca textiles remains fundamentally the same since ancient times, albeit with subtle refinements in finishing and mechanization. The finest alpaca fiber comes from the baby animal, which is sheared only once before turning one year old. Though Prima Alpaca is woven on machines, there is a tremendous amount of handwork involved in each step including meticulously hand-sorting the fiber and setting up the looms to make yarn. Finishing the fabric can involve up to 12 labor-intensive steps including scouring, cutting, cording, steaming, ironing, decatizing, crushing the fabric to flatten the fibers and slowly rolling it wet for three days for a sumptuous finish.
The result of this meticulous process is “a dream fabric,” Sandra says. “Prima Alpaca offers remarkable softness, yet is durable enough to withstand the rigors of daily use.” The qualities that help the alpaca thrive in harsh conditions are exactly what make the fabric so remarkable. For example, their light yet exceedingly warm fleece has microscopic air pockets that afford efficient protection from icy winds and frigid temperatures; these thermal qualities translate to the fabric. Alpaca is stronger and warmer than wool and does not break, pill, deform or create static. It has a high level of inflammability and contains no lanolin, making it hypoallergenic.
Sandra is devoted to the community of herdsmen and artisans in the Peruvian highlands with which she partners. To help sustain the fine quality of her line, she realized early that support for the community was crucial. Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca provides living-wage jobs for herdsmen and their families. Proper job training and better housing allows workers the time and energy to educate themselves about their profession and to support their families. Sandra’s business venture also includes a variety of outreach ranging from working with local organizations such as VIDA (vidausa.org) to provide medical care and education to supporting scientific and genetic research on the fiber itself.
Sandra has also pioneered a program, called La Cabaña del Pastor (The Herdsman’s Cottage) with local advocacy groups to build clean, sustainable and culturally appropriate housing for herdsmen and their families. A percentage of every sale of Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca fabric goes to support construction.
From its initial offering, Sandra Jordan Prima Alpaca has grown to be represented in leading showrooms around the word in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Europe. “The production of fine alpaca textiles was becoming a lost art,” Sandra says. “It’s wonderful to see the world rediscovering the ancient magic of alpaca and helping Peruvians in the process.”
For more information, visit www.sandrajordan.com.