Paka Is Reinventing the Activewear Game, With a Little Help From Some Fleecy Friends

Sourced from Alpaca wool, Paka introduces a inventive, luxe and performance-driven take on athleisure.

November 10, 2021 3:37 pm
a man leading an alpaca

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When Kris Cody asked if I wanted to meet the alpacas, I thought he was kidding. But Kris, founder of budding activewear brand Paka, takes his furry Peruvian friends very seriously. They’re practically his business partners. 

Paka, founded in 2016, is a performance-driven athleticwear brand with a rather unique draw: it’s apparel is fully crafted out of alpaca wool. Yars in the making, the brand first started as a college dorm room venture conceived after a backpacking trip through South America, and has grown into the first major player in the luxury athletics game to truly embrace the unique fabric. 

a model standing next to an alpaca
Jay Alvarrez with one of Paka’s workhors- er, workalpacas.

Paka’s inception came from an unlikely source: a hand-woven wool sweater Cody found in Peru. Baffled by the sweater’s versatility, charm and technical capacity, Kris dove into alpaca wool-driven research (fleece-search, if you will), and emerged with two major discoveries; the market for the material was majority unrefined and untouched, and alpaca wool is really, really performance-adaptive. 

Aptly described as “nature’s technical fabric,” alpaca wool has evolved to be incredibly versatile in an unpredictable and often extreme Andes Mountain climate. “Nature is a technology, and we’re just looking to harness it in a better way,” Kris explained. “When people hear wool they might think that it’s all itch or stuffy, but here we are, with a product that’s softer than cashmere, but functions like active polyester.” 

The baseline Paka material has certainly been refined: hundreds of trials and major structural improvements to boost performance, eliminate odor and fine-tune breathability and warmth. Utilizing a double-knit fabric, the fabric is touted as being as soft as cashmere, warmer than sheep’s wool, hypoallergenic and water-resistant. The best part is, the end product actually works.

“By merging functionality with sustainability, Paka is providing an alternative in performance-based clothing for consumers and allowing them to make choices that are better for the environment’s wellbeing as well as their own,” said Cody. “Our line is as soft and cozy as cashmere but so breathable and performance-based that you can work out in it.”

a girl running in a sporty black fleece outfit

And indeed, sustainability is as much cornerstone to Paka as the alpacas are themselves. As a ground-up operation, it’s paramount to Paka that their sourcing, production and distribution remain as conscious and sustainable as possible, which might explain the in-person meeting with the sources Kris offered. After all, as he puts it, “Clothing is about knowing where your things come from. It only makes sense to truly own that, right?” 

To combat their environmental impact, Paka sources from and supports free-roam alpaca wool and has integrated a whole host of environmentally conscious practices into their business model. Natural dyes are the standard for the product, and given the lightweight properties of the garments and the compostable packaging, the shipping process is working towards a carbon-neutral footprint. 

Less tangible but of equal importance are the sustainable labor practices that Paka promotes. “When you wear Paka, you’re investing in local communities, supporting indigenous women and reducing the amount of microplastics that end up in the ocean.” says Cristina Mittermeier, SeaLegacy Founder and environmentalist.

Paka’s mission has certainly struck a cord with a new era of conscious shopper that wants to buy less, but buy better. The knitwear retailers raised over $350,000 in just 30 days on Kickstarter and has recently been seen on celebrities like Alex Ohanian, as well as athletes like pro surfer Leah Dawson.

a clothes layout of black gear

Paka’s newest collection, BREATHE BY PAKA, introduces thermoregulating activewear into the mix for the alternative wool-based brand. Powered by semi-hollow Alpaca fibers, which contain an insulating core, the new capsule offers light, breathable garments that also provide warmth and comfort.

The BREATHE line includes elevated hoodies and joggers for the holiday season, and not just for some “Animal Planet” couch time (although that’s always an option); the eco-conscious dynamic design means that the entire line is a quality activewear upgrade perfect for dropping temps. After all, why not be comfortable when you work out?

You can learn more about Paka, their production processes, as well as their BREATHE BY PAKA collection, all at their website.

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