We turn our attention away from the market for a moment to ask the really important question: who can afford a $21,000 sports coat and what makes it so expensive?
The Wall Street Journal tells us that Incan royalty wore it exclusively. In the 1500s, King Philip II of Spain slept under vicuña blankets. Last century, it was favored by wealthy entertainers: Greta Garbo wore vicuña, as did Nat King Cole and Marlene Dietrich.
The Italian tailoring house Kiton makes only about 100 vicuña pieces a year; an off-the-rack sport coat costs at least $21,000, while the price of a made-to-measure suit starts at $40,000. A single vicuña scarf from Loro Piana is about $4,000. Ermenegildo Zegna produces just 30 vicuña suits a year. Each is numbered, and the most affordable model goes for $46,500.
The vicuña, a camelid that looks like a smaller and more elegant llama, is found primarily in the Peruvian and northern Argentine Andes. For centuries, it was poached for its valuable cinnamon-colored coat, a marvel of evolution that, although unusually light and fine, keeps the animals warm in the freezing altitudes above 15,000 feet.
The vicuña are wild. To gather the hair, the local population forms a circular human chain (as the Incas did) around the animals and then slowly closes in on them, before taking them into small tents where they’re sheared.
If you have a vicuña jacket or suit, we’d like to hear from you.