Alpaca wool is curiously soothing, says veteran Suzanne Werner. And at Fluff, her Hudson store, it isn’t uncommon for customers to come in just to caress the impossibly soft creations or linger over the range of gift items (including stationery, tea towels, toys, candles, perfume, and organic skin care products) created by Werner and her knitting team or sourced from 43 artisans’ collectives in the US, Australia, Mexico, and Peru.
When New York on Pause made in-person shopping impossible, Fluff’s online business picked up, but now that the store is open again, the softness seekers are back. “People are sending robes, sweaters, and socks as gifts, because the fluffiness just makes you feel better,” Werner says. “We’d actually been doing well. Then when we reopened the store, with a whole lot of safety precautions, we had a lot of people come in. There was a pent-up demand for silky softness, and we’ve had a lot of really cool things coming in to meet it.”
Fluff Alpaca got started when Werner and her husband moved Upstate from New York City in 2014, having successfully sent their grown children off into the world and retired from their law careers. Werner, an avid knitter since age seven, fell in love with lustrous, lightweight alpaca fiber at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival and since 2016, the couple has been sharing 80-acre Green River Hollow Farm, an old dairy farm in Hillsdale, with 15 Huacaya alpacas; the farm is also home to a llama named Trixie, a donkey named Lulu, and a menagerie of Icelandic horses, chickens, cats, and German shepherds.
During the pandemic, the Werners are also sharing space with their adult children, and Werner’s daughter Emma is one of four part-time knitters. “We have a farm full—all the kids moved up from the city, so we’ve had quite a few boys helping with the farm and doing grocery runs,” says Werner. “One night we looked around the table and everyone had alpaca on. I realize how lucky we are to be here and do what we do—supplying softness and watching these gracious critters graze.”
Alpaca fiber is waterproof and hypoallergenic, comes in a vast range of natural colors, and is produced sustainably by tidy, amiable, adorable creatures from the camel family. Living with alpacas and working with their wool, Werner seeks to walk as lightly on the earth as they do, and Fluff is part of a sustainable global network of alpaca aficionados. “We work with the New England Alpaca Fiber Pool, which collects alpaca from all over the US and makes it into different things,” she says. “We source from all over the country and from Peru and Ecuador. We’ve done a lot of research and found new designers working with alpaca, and we’ve got lots of choices at lots of price points.”
Alpaca fiber lends itself to all manner of creations, and Fluff offers pillows; blankets; travel blankets; and checked, striped, diamond-patterned, and solid throws in subtle and bright colors (priced at $145 to $175). The clothing line includes gauzy women’s cardigans, stylish men’s sweaters, ponchos, scarves ($50 to $85), baby clothes, and alpaca wear for pooches. Then there are the ever-popular alpaca socks, starting at $17 per pair, available in over 60 patterns and styles in a wide variety of colors. “Everyone should have a pair,” says Werner. “They’re as soft and warm as cashmere, and they last forever.”