Company Profile: Paka Apperal – The Trek

In recent years, alpaca wool has come onto the scene to challenge merino’s claim as the best natural fiber for sportswear. Companies like Appalachian Gear Company and Arms of Andes make a variety of alpaca wool activewear. Where Paka stands out is in its sustainability certifications, hand-woven “Inca ID” labels, and partnerships with NGOs and non-profits.

One of Paka’s sweaters, “The Crew”.

Paka at a glance

  • Alpaca wool sportswear
    • Hoodies, shirts, sweaters, base layer, socks, hats
  • Made in Peru and sold online
  • Each item has a hand sewn “Inca ID” patch, hand woven by Peruvian women
  • Certified B Corp
  • In partnership with Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC), Peruvian Hearts and Alpaca International Association (IAA)
  • Free delivery
  • Returns within 30 days of purchase

Paka shirt and pants. the “Inca ID” can be seen in the trouser pocket. It is hand woven and sewn into all of Paka’s garments.

mission and history

Paka’s mission is to provide highly functional sportswear made with sustainably sourced alpaca wool. They also aim to increase the popularity of alpaca as a sportswear fiber and to invest and reinvest in traditional Andean weaving practices, as well as communities in the Peruvian Andes.

Kris Cody, founder and CEO of Paka, was hiking in Peru after high school when he bought his first alpaca sweater. “I was blown away by…the touch and feel…(in) all climates, it worked perfectly…it worked in the desert…the tropics…the mountains and…super cold environments,” he said. he declares. Upon returning to the United States, he found that people had never really heard of alpaca wool before and were intrigued by his sweater. He returned to Peru to develop the prototypes that would become Paka’s first products. When he returned, he started selling them online.

Kris Cody, Founder and CEO of Paka, holding an alpaca in the Andes.

“There was no business plan…there was no investment, it was all done with…curiosity and…obsessively focused on building that and the team,” Kris said. , about managing Paka in his early days from his college dorm at UVA. In 2017, Kris teamed up with directors at Netflix to launch a Kickstarter campaign to secure seed funding for Paka. “The purpose of the video is just to…connect people more closely to what’s really going on,” Kris said of Kickstarter and subsequent Paka videos.

Kris went all-in full-time on Paka in 2019. “We’ve set some really lofty goals as a team and…we’re not hitting a lot of them, but I think…what’s…important is to always be a little beyond your comfort. area,” he said of the company’s growth. The long-term goal is to put alpaca “on the map” as an activewear fiber and make it more mainstream. Kris has high hopes for alpaca’s potential as jacket insulation – Paka is currently working to launch it in the fall. It aims to establish collaborations with other sustainable brands.

The Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco tries to preserve the traditional textile patterns and techniques of the Andes.

Paka is also committed to reinvesting in Andean communities that supply alpaca wool. Each Paka product includes a small hand-woven patch of a traditional pattern called “Inca ID”, each unique, sourced from CTTC. According to Kris, Paka employs over 100 Peruvian women to make these Inca ID cards. Paka also donates 1% of sales to Peruvian Hearts to provide scholarships for poor girls in Peru to attend college. They donate an additional 1% of their sales to IAA, which is trying to mainstream alpaca fiber in the global textile market.

Alpaca wool and sustainability

Kris was drawn to alpaca wool because he claims it is more functional and more durable than traditional sheep’s wool. Alpacas live high in the Andes mountains, with wildly fluctuating temperatures, which Kris says gives them “incredible thermal regulation.”

Alpaca wool has very promising properties for sportswear.

Kris has a reverence for natural fibers rather than synthetic fibers, which he considers to be harmful to the environment, both in their production and through the disposal of microplastics. “I think it comes down to…looking at nature as technology…millions of years evolving in this climate…it’s so scientific, there are so many reasons why this fiber is the way it is.”

Thanks to the air pockets of the fur, it is light and warm and does not retain moisture. This keeps the fabric insulating, breathable and odor free. “I wore the alpaca socks for seven days…it looks bad, but they actually don’t smell…it’s crazy…you can not make the alpaca smell,” Kris said.

Alpacas in the Andes.

Alpaca herds are generally small (60-90 animals per herd) and managed by local farmers. Paka has just launched its “full traceability program”, which allows you to scan a QR code and see exactly where the alpaca fiber has been shorn. The fibers are then cleaned and sorted by hand by micron of length, and the softest fabrics are sent to the factories, where the sweaters are woven.

Equipment overview

Paka’s most popular products are their hoodie and crew, which are knit blends of wool and rayon. They are designed as a lightweight active/midlayer that keeps you cool during the day and warm at night. They weigh less than 10 oz, are hypoallergenic and “soft as cashmere”. They are also machine washable. The “Inca ID” is sewn into the waistband.

The hoodie

The crew

Paka also offers base layers, socks, beanies and other lines of hoodies and pullovers. Alpaca wool is mixed with other natural or synthetic fibers. None of Paka’s products are 100% alpaca wool. There are pros and cons to 100% wool versus a blended fabric, but a deep dive is beyond the scope of this profile. Backpackers should be sure to check the blend before purchasing to avoid accidentally picking up cotton in wet weather.

The hoodie.

Final Thoughts

Paka (and alpaca wool in general) is new to the game as far as gear companies go. Alpaca holds great promise as a sportswear fiber, and Paka’s commitment to sustainable and ethical production is admirable, as are its partnerships with NGOs. They reflect a trend towards more traceable products with lower carbon and ecological footprints. It will be interesting to see how Paka and other alpaca wool activewear companies impact the performance fiber scene over the next few years.

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