Creature Comforts: Alpaca Wool

The merits of alpaca inspire a luxury line.

Alpaca and cotton pillows (left) range from $165 to $475.
Alpaca and cotton pillows (left) range from $165 to $475.

Johanna Howard became smitten with the softness of alpaca wool while visiting a farm on vacation with her family on Martha’s Vineyard. The Swedish-born Montclair resident, who designed for brands like BCBG and Gap for 20-plus years, fell in love with the fluffy creatures that produced the fuzzy wool. “As soon as I felt it, I went to the farm’s store and spent a small fortune on wool to make a scarf—even though I hadn’t knitted anything since seventh grade!”

With some research, Howard learned that alpaca is as warm as traditional wool and hypoallergenic. She was hooked. “I thought, Oh my gosh, I want to work with this textile,” she says, adding, “I petted it all the way home!”

Ready to take a leap of faith away from the frenetic pace of fashion, she began sketching and speccing designs. Her search for a manufacturer led to Peru. “They really know how to handle the fiber. There are very few mills that can process the really fine yarn in an upscale way in the United States,” says Howard.

Launched in 2013, Johanna Howard Home & Accessories includes a vibrant array of plush throws and pillows, along with one fashion accessory: scarves. “I love them and wear them all the time, so I had to include scarves,” Howard says. The company’s signature Howard Cable Scarf takes three days to knit. “They are long and wide. I wanted them to be substantial,” she says.

Find Johanna Howard Home & Accessories at Surroundings in Northfield, Commonwealth in Spring Lake, Dot Reeder in Montclair and at johannahoward.com.

The Block Stripe throws in five colorways; $450 each. Right, the Howard Cable scarves are hand-knit from 100 percent baby alpaca; $269.

Throws of Passion: The Block Stripe throws in five colorways; $450 each. Bottom right: the Howard Cable scarves are hand-knit from 100 percent baby alpaca; $269.

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