Alpaka - Interview with Anni Ilves


Seasonless Luxury Leisure collection combines the remarkably soft and warm alpaca fibre, Mulberry silk and Pima cotton. The author of the collection is the head designer of ALPAKA – ANNI ILVES. She joined the enterprise in 2016. The design of the luxury brand Alpaka is characterised by the unique symbiosis of traditions and a modern way of life.

Seasonless Luxury Leisure 2nd Edition is a very elegant collection – simple, luxurious, but also playful.

Our autumn-winter collection includes items that are functional for everyday use and can be matched easily with other colours. The colours are inspired by dreams and natural beauty. As the balance between work and rest has become blurry in these recent times, people yearn for more comfort. This is why we have put more emphasis on comfort than ever before and our collection is filled with amazing light and silky soft key items, flowy silhouettes add playfulness. Each item of clothing is stylish, elegant and cosy warm. I love natural materials and alpaca fibre is a simply miraculous one. When you count up its features, it feels like it was made to accommodate the needs of people. It is a hugely motivating added value. I am very grateful that my path has led me to Alpaka, both the values of the brand and the alpaca material are a perfect canvas for a more sustainable future, design and production. As a designer and a brand, we are responsible for what we’re creating and our aim is to avoid over- and mass production. This is why we always carefully deliberate each clothing item and accessory. We aim to treat nature – our most important inspiration and supplier – with respect. 

Where does the material originate from?

Our wool is from alpacas in the Peruvian highlands.

I highly appreciate both the uniqueness of the alpaca wool, as well as the principles for production – the brand’s leather products are not created with the help of the fur industry, rather than the production is based on the natural way of life of alpacas. The alpacas live in freedom 3000-5000m high up in the mountains. 

It is essential to me that the alpaca fibre that we use is ethical and cruelty free. The environmental damage caused by mass husbandry is horrendous. 

You have several homes, all around the world.

After a few years of studying Creation of Environment in the Estonian Academy of Arts, I decided to go for an exchange year to Rome, where I could pick fashion as one of my majors. During the studies, I got a chance to get a scholarship to study in the fashion academy Accademia di Costume & di Moda in Rome, and without giving it a second thought, I went for it. All roads lead to Rome, and that applied to me in the most literal way. Thoughts, wishes and dreams have power – travelling and living in different countries has been on my mind since I was a little kid, which is why I grabbed this opportunity. By now, Italy is like a second home to me and half of my family lives there, both blood relatives as well as my self-selected family – my friends. Me and my southern-Italian partner share our time between Estonia and Italy, and depending on the year, we also spend our time in Peru, where our manufacturing takes place. 

Peru is far away. 

I adore the Sun, lengthy aperitifs with warm and sunny people, simply idling and dreaming away on the beach or exploring historical buildings – this is something that connects me and my partner and characterizes our time in Italy and our favourite district in Lima - Barranco. However, as a true Estonian, I cannot live for too long without forests – this is a very recent revelation about myself. As a so-called citizen of the world, I have often felt insecure when I’ve been asked what ties me to my roots and homeland, but now I’ve reached an understanding – it’s these ancient Estonian forests. Being by the sea, in the forest, absorbing the sounds of crashing waves and wind whistling in the trees, morning walks with my dog who constantly reminds me to enjoy being in the moment with all my senses – this is where I get my energy, and what is more important – my creative energy. In today’s world you have to be very versatile and handle a lot of different things yourself, which is why I’ve tried to surround myself with good and talented people that complement my weaker sides. I definitely live by the idea that you should rather stick to what you do best, otherwise you risk losing both yourself and your creative energy. 

Why have you as a designer chosen alpaca wool? 

Alpaca is a wonderful example about the wisdom of nature, it seems like its attributes are created to protect our skin and body – it is hypoallergenic, extremely soft, water and stain resistant, it protects us both from cold and heat thanks to its breathable structure. These are the attributes that people are trying to imitate when creating technological fibres, however the more wide-spread polyesters unfortunately sill lack these features, which is why they are not the best choice when considering our bodies and comfort. 

Alpaca fibre falls off the body extremely nicely, this ensures a good fit. Creating structural patterns and forms is however slightly more difficult, which in a sense limits the design, but on the other hand makes you think differently. The alpaca fibre is also slightly more fickle when weaving lighter clothing items, compared to cashmere or merino wool, which is why we’ve had to experiment with different weaves and treatments throughout the years to reach the lighter products that are soft, 100% natural, warm and beautiful until the very last detail – this journey has been worth every moment, because our new Royal alpaka knits are truly magnificent. 

When it comes to thermal resistance of alpaca wool, one has to keep in mind the function of the item when choosing the weaving patterns and thickness of the wool. We can emphasise its different features with the choice of the fibre. For example, when mixing alpaca fibre with silk and choosing a thinner thread, we will get a nice layer that can protect us from warmth and cold. And the opposite applies: choosing a thicker thread you can create a thick weave that is also wind-proof. The natural tones and high-quality materials of the collection ensure that the pieces are not tied to any season and can be worn for many-many years.  

It is vital to me to create products that have a minimal effect on the environment, which is why I am so glad that I’ve found my way to knitwear. It allows you to design residue-free, and at the same time experiment with different forms and textures – a thread is a completely blank space at the beginning of the creative process.  

How do you create your designs?

When designing a clothing collection, I most enjoy creating the conception, gathering inspiration and sketching the first layouts. The time when you’re eyes and ears are always open, your thought always active for more inspiration and to analyse what might work, what not, what is excessive and what is essential. This journey, how to translate the inspiration into clothes, is magical. I believe that these are the times when I feel most alive and present. 

I like to create clothes that have a balance between originality and timelessness and I always prefer style over passing trends. One can find that my clothes often have a rather classic or familiar form, in which one can feel comfortable and confident in. At the same time, I like to combine classic forms with unique cuts, play with textures and materials. 

Our clients are people that appreciate timeless design and support luxury products over fast fashion. People that share the same values and can be confident in knowing that their pleasure origins from ethical and sustainable sources. I believe that it is very important to decrease consumption, especially fast fashion, and invest in products that are truly meant to last. 

Thanks to all of my experiences, I am now reaching the true quiet luxury, meaning that a need for showing off design elements is receding and the podium is taken by gorgeous materials and eternal beauty. For me less is definitely more, and it is not only describing the cuts, but I’ve found the true beauty of this amazing material and my aim is to further bring out the beauty with my designs. It is important to me that the products that I’ve created would be loved by their wearers for years to come and that they would not cause exhaustion that might otherwise come from wearing very extravagant designs. When creating a clothing, it is vital to me how the clothes make my clients feel. They have to increase confidence and make getting ready an enjoyable ritual that helps you get you ready for the day and creates a nice rhythm of life. 

In a world that is filled with short-lasting products, and whose purpose is to satisfy the passing temptations, ALPAKA creates beauty which is not seasonal, but timeless, unique and durable.