Alicia Adams Alpaca
Alicia Adams’ line of 100% baby alpaca clothing and home goods has amassed fans the world over. Now, she’s bringing her coveted, ridiculously soft wares to Malibu.
Written by Holly Bieler
Alicia and Daniel Adams are not ones for waiting. That’s not to say the husband-and-wife duo behind Alicia Adams Alpaca, the cult-status line of ultra-luxe, 100% baby alpaca clothing and home goods, aren’t patient. Indeed patience is kind of an occupational necessity if you work with alpaca fiber. Wily, coarse and streaked with wiry guard hair when it’s first shorn, a process that doesn’t harm or hurt the animals, turning raw alpaca fleece into an Alicia Adams Alpaca throw or sweater is a ridiculously long, tedious and expensive process, requiring hours of meticulous brushing to rid the fiber of every last coarse strand. But if the Alicia Adams Alpaca process takes a lot longer and costs more than traditional cashmere and alpaca fur processing, the results are more than worth it. Stunningly soft (think cashmere coziness times 10) preternaturally durable and never, ever scratchy, the Alicia Adams Alpaca line has exploded since it was founded in 2009, currently available and routinely selling out in some of the most exclusive department stores and boutiques in the world, from Barneys New York to the Malibu Colony Company.
It’s been a whirlwind few years for Alicia and Daniel, who not 15 years ago were business professionals living in Munich who had never seen, let alone heard of, an alpaca. But for the Adams, who recently moved to Broad Beach with their four children and just opened their second brick-and-mortar Alicia Adams Alpaca store in the Trancas Country Market, risk-taking has always been the inclination over sitting back and waiting.
“We thought—what’s the worst that could happen?” said Alicia. It was 2005 when Alicia and Daniel, ready for new adventure after years in Munich, began looking into different locales for their young family. The Adams had always been fascinated with farm life, and with two young children and a third on the way, began envisioning vineyards in Australia or olive farms in Italy where they might raise their children and make a living off the land. That year Daniel and Alicia decided on a few dream locations and Daniel dispatched on a whirlwind tour, trying to find an ideal location before Alicia gave birth. Landing in New South Wales to scout various vineyards, when serendipity hit. While sitting in the backyard of his rural guesthouse after a vineyard showing, Daniel found himself face-to-face with a family of animals scompletely alien to him. The peculiar creatures looked like llamas, with the same long tufted necks and furrowed, doe-eyed faces, but were much smaller, about the size of great danes. These were alpacas, the homeowners told Daniel, a rare species counting a tiny global population of four million (compared with 250 million cashmere goats) whose coveted fiber produces one of the most luxurious and durable natural materials on the market. Daniel was immediately intrigued by the animals and even moreso as he began researching the alpaca breeding industry, which can prove incredibly lucrative considering the high demand for the animals’ quality fiber, with well-bred males fetching upwards of five figures. That same day Daniel was back in Munich, where Alicia gave birth to their son, Tassilo. As they cooed over their new baby in the hospital, Alicia inquired after the vineyard scouting trip.
“We’re not doing vineyards,” Daniel told her, passing along the latest edition of Alpacas Magazine. “We’re going to breed alpacas.”
“My first reaction was: can we talk about this a little later?’” said Alicia with a laugh. “My second reaction was: what’s an alpaca?”
After doing some research, however, Alicia was immediately on-board with the idea.
“After a few months of figuring everything out we just said, let’s just do it,” she said. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
Within a year the Adams family had relocated from Munich to the small town of Millbrook in New York’s Hudson Valley, purchasing an 18th century farmhouse set on 80 acres, which slowly built into a breeding operation starting with 16 alpacas. Daniel began traveling the country showing their alpacas at livestock shows, and was soon commanding high fees for their animals, who had developed a reputation for the superior quality of their fiber
As the breeding business grew, the Adams began amassing more and more of their animals’ sumptuous fiber, mostly donating it to local co-ops or selling to local weavers. Soon, however, Alicia became interested in utilizing the wool for themselves.
“We were selling these animals, telling everyone how wonderful the fiber is, and Alicia started thinking; why are we storing or giving away all this fiber?” said Daniel. “Why don’t we make something with it for our kids?”
Alicia knew exactly what: a traditional children’s Austrian cardigan like she had spent her summers wearing, typically made of felted wool, with big silver buttons down the front. If she fondly remembered her mother wrapping her up in the sweaters for dinner or special occasions, how pretty and colorful the sweaters were, her warm memories came with a big caveat.
“They were always so scratchy,” said Alicia. “I hated them so much and my cousins did too, and I said: I promise I’m going to make the soft version of this.”
Alicia began sending the fiber out to local mills for processing, a tedious process in which the fiber is carded over and over again to remove as much rough guard hair as possible. However each time she received the fiber back, it still wasn’t soft enough.
“It was coming back scratchy and that’s the one thing I never wanted,” she said. “I knew my kids were just not going to wear it [if it was scratchy]. And then what would be the point?”
Finally, she had the wool where she wanted it to be, and working with a local knitter, produced her first batch of sweaters. Her kids were in love with them, as were her adult friends, and she quickly produce more, giving them out as gifts and starting to design. Her sweaters and baby booties became coveted among friends and family, and after a scouting trip to Peru with her father, Alicia found a a team of artisans who began creating even higher-quality products out of their fiber
While the Adams had never considered getting into retail, they increasingly began to warm to the idea after seeing the overwhelming reaction of friends and family. And so in 2010 they decided to put their fledgling business to the test, registering for a spot at the New York International Gift Show (now called New York Now), one of the most important trade shows in the country.
“That show was really a make or break for us,” says Daniel. “We obviously thought what we were making was great, but we said let’s see how professional clients, stores and designers react to it.”
Their selection was minimal—only a few blankets in natural colors—and completely new to the world of retail, Alicia still recalls how anxious she was.
“I was just so nervous,” she said. However the show proved to be an overwhelming success, with stores like Barneys New York placing orders for items and one of Alicia’s designs, a travel set comprising an alpaca throw and eye-mask, winning the show’s Best New Product award.
Within six months, both Alicia and Daniel had dedicated all their energy to Alicia Adams Alpaca. Focusing less on their breeding business, the couple converted an old farmhouse on their Milbrook property into their new office and showroom, where they began expanding their line and distribution, adding items like sweaters and jackets, introducing new designs and colors, expanding to stores around the world, and launching a successful e-commerce site. Within a few years they had outgrown their home office, moving their headquarters to a beautiful old building in downtown Millbrook, where they opened their first brick-and-mortar store in 2015. As their business began to grow, however, the Adams started yearning for adventure once again. Tired of East Coast winters and the distance between their older children, who were attending boarding school in Switzerland and Scotland at the time, the Adams decided they wanted to move somewhere warm, where their whole family could live and continue growing the business. The location was a no-brainer.
“We’ve always loved Malibu,” said Alicia. “It’s so beautiful here. Even when it’s gray, I see the palm trees and they make me happy.” And so, in fall of last year, the Adams and their four children moved to Broad Beach, immediately falling in love with their new home. Witnessing how their new community came together following the Woolsey Fire, just months after they’d moved in, only served to strengthen their feelings .
“We love this community and we very much fell in love with this whole group of wonderful people,” says Alicia.
Now Daniel and Alicia split their time between Millbrook, where their office headquarters are still located, taking turns to check up on business. For the moment, however, these perennial adventurers say that in Malibu they feel like they have found a true home. Impressed with the Trancas Country Market and its local feel, the Adams were quick to pick up a vacant retail space on a whim, opening their second brick-and-mortar store in Trancas in the spring. In just a few weeks the airy, beautiful store has already become a Malibu favorite.
“We quietly opened the store without any shebang, without any signage, and the response has been great from day one,” said Daniel.
Originally planning on returning to New York after a year, the Adams have decided to stay in Malibu. “Especially after the fire, watching how everyone came together, we are convinced this is a great place continue to raise our kids.” MM
Alicia Adams Alpaca
30745 PCH, #16-17
(310) 457 7944