A natural journey

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Who is Samantha Holmes?

I am a Yorkshire lass originally, but now settled on the West coast of Scotland near Loch Lomond with my family and dog, Lola.

After studying French and German with History of Art at Edinburgh University, I embarked on a career in publishing, moving onto events management, then environmental management consultancy and eventually the luxury goods market - an eclectic path, but it equipped me rather well for setting up my own business.  I love Scotland, its rugged coastline, forests, lochs and mountains and when not in the office, I can regularly be found in the hills and glens near Loch Lomond, with my matching dog.

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Samantha Holmes Alpaca?

Samantha Holmes Alpaca is the small international trading business I set up in my back bedroom in 2003.  We specialise in soft, cosy alpaca clothing, homeware, babywear and gifts.  Each item is beautifully made and hand-finished by our artisans in Peru and Bolivia in butter soft alpaca wool.

I design the collection.  Every item is exclusively made by or for me.  My assistant, Gayle, handles day-to-day order administration, with our crew in Glasgow managing packing and despatch.  Still trying to elicit photos of these important people, but they are very shy!

I have travelled extensively in Peru, visiting each year to meet my makers, many of whom we've known for 20 years.  Essayu, our head knitter, managed to build a new family home on the proceeds of his first few years’ income.  Most important is Paola, who has been central to production from the get-go.  Like me, she has two children and our business and families have flourished together.   

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What inspired you?

First and foremost alpaca of course! I'm biased, but it is the most amazing fibre on earth!  Even now when I open a box of freshly delivered alpaca scarves, it fills my senses!  See section What is Alpaca?  

I was working with cashmere when I first learnt about alpaca and loved its product story ... the textile heritage of Peru, the "gold of the Andes" treasured by Inca nobility, its unique butter softness, the families who've knitted and woven alpaca for hundreds of years and its myriad of natural colours.  I've always been inspired by travelling and walking in mountainous scenery, so it was a natural next step to explore Peru.

My mother was from a family of seamstresses.  Sadly she didn't manage to pass on her talent with a sewing machine to me, but she did pass on her passion for fabric, colour, drape and detail.  I was also in awe of my Aunt's clothing design talent - she was Angela Holmes, founder of English couture label, Droopy & Brown.  I briefly enjoyed importing pashmina scarves from a small weaving cooperative in Nepal, but it was alpaca, and finding a gap for it in the market where I found my passion. 

Brand Ethos?

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Ethically Sourced

Our alpaca yarn is made in Peru by two long established companies, who source their alpaca fibre ethically and have active social responsibility programmes, investing proceeds back into poorer Peruvian communities.

Our Alpaca fur is sourced from herd wastage resulting from harsh Peruvian winters.  No alpaca is slaughtered for its skin.  It is not financially viable for farmers to do so - the skins are tiny and worth little compared with fleeces which can be shorn during a whole lifetime and spun into yarn.  Alpacas can live over 15 years promising shearing potential of far greater value than a single pelt.

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Traditional Craftsmanship

Each of our alpaca products is finished by hand in our studios in Peru, following a tradition which goes back centuries.  Alpaca was once prized by the Inca nobility for its unique silky softness, durability and insulating properties.  Our artisans are self-employed home workers and small family businesses with whom we work directly.

Our small batch production ensures minimal wastage, more flexibility and attention to detail.  Pictured here is Isidro and his family who craft Samantha's alpaca fur products.

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Sustainable Natural Authentic

Our designs transcend seasonal trends.  We are a 'slow fashion' brand focusing on product longevity and simplicity. Nearly everything we produce is 100% natural.  Alpacas come in 22 recognised shades, ranging from black, grey, brown to cream and white which avoids the need for dyes, and the dyes we do use are Azo free.  

Alpacas themselves are well known for their minimal impact on the environment.  They tread lightly with their soft padded feet, yield higher annual volume of fleece than sheep and have efficient grazing habits.  Alpaca farming also requires no harsh chemicals.  

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Transparent and Trusted

Loyal to alpaca since 2003, we have repeat customers all over the world.  60% of our turnover is repeat business.  We have no middlemen, we work directly with our makers with whom we have a longstanding relationship - some have been with us since 2003.  We remain true to our original values and are still a small Scottish business run from home. 

Here is Samantha checking in a delivery in our warehouse in Clydebank near Glasgow.  To follow us behind the scenes, head over to @samanthaholmes.alpaca on Instagram.

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Women Owned and Run

Girl Power… Founded by Samantha, the business is almost entirely run by women. Our knitting operation in Peru is run by Paola in Lima, who also employs a core team of women who assist her with finishing and quality control.  Here is Samantha with our handknitters in Puno.  Our pack and dispatch operation is an independent business in Glasgow run by Maureen and Sue with Lynn, our Head Packer.  To avoid this sounding too woke however, I should mention that we do have some very capable fellas in the supply chain too!  

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Personal Customer Service

We've not lost sight of what our brand is about and we strive to keep our customers happy.  For example, US Customs do tend to detain urgently needed orders some times with no good reason - recently when this happened, we kept the customer informed and just sent the goods again on trust so they got them in time for an event.  We were rewarded when the first despatch finally showed up and the customer sold all the stock in both deliveries - we have a high sell-through rate!

The company is still owned and run by Samantha Holmes from her home on the west coast of Scotland.