In closing out our month of gratitude, we give thanks to Alicia Adams who joined New York Makers in its infancy and whose alpaca wool designs continue to amaze us.
Her relationship with New York Makers began very serendipitously when our co-founder Silda Wall Spitzer found her, as Alicia puts it, “like a pin in a hay pile.” A few years before New York Makers began, Silda was exploring the idea of raising alpacas herself. She discovered an alpaca farm near to her own and made an appointment with its owner, Daniel, to visit with her daughter. As they were leaving, Daniel showed them some of the alpaca wool products his wife had designed. Silda recalls that “their beauty, sophistication and quality took my breath away.”
Photo credit: Alicia Adams Alpaca
At that moment, Alicia returned with one of her own children. They quickly struck up a conversation, and Silda stayed a while longer to chat in her kitchen. This was the start of a lasting friendship and so, when Silda began New York Makers, she was eager to include Alicia’s alpaca designs.
For Alicia, it’s important that her designs are timeless and classic. She says, “I don’t do anything by season. I’m more interested in creating a collection that will fit into every sort of lifestyle, from my clients in Miami Beach who have air conditioning in their apartments overlooking the ocean to the guy sitting somewhere in Aspen . . . I want to create a unique product that you can use everywhere.”
But Alicia’s life in the Hudson Valley designing alpaca products is a far cry from her itinerant early life. As a child, she lived in Mexico City before her family moved to Switzerland for her middle school years. Then they moved to Germany where Alicia finished high school and majored in Business and Marketing Studies at the University of Munich, at the same time taking several classes in design.
It quickly becomes clear, talking to Alicia, that she considers boredom to be an anathema. “I’ve always been working. . . I was always on the move. I wasn’t the kind sitting around doing nothing.” This is what Alicia says of her time at university. She took internships and jobs in many different sectors. She worked for the auction house Sotheby’s, at a boutique store, and in PR. She took all the opportunities she could find. “I just decided I needed to learn everything about a business, about all sorts of businesses.”
Alicia left university fluent in four languages, with a wealth of first-hand business experience and a great aversion to free time. She continued her peripatetic lifestyle moving from one German city to another: first Dusseldorf, then Hamburg and then back to Munich. During this time, she worked for an advertising agency doing promotional work for Formula 1 and Hugo Boss. On her return to Munich, she joined the world of fashion, representing brands like Armani and Moncler.
It was then that Alicia met her future-husband Daniel. They eventually married and moved to a farm just outside of Munich to raise their children and so Daniel could continue to ride horses. The farm was greatly reminiscent to Alicia of her childhood summers in Salzburg, Austria when she used to visit her grandparents’ alpine home. This was the first time Alicia settled down and she recalls that “things then got boring there, a little bit, because I thought this was just too perfect, too boring, so we started thinking of what to do.”
They decided to visit Australia. Daniel was considering setting up his own vineyard for grapes or olives, and wanted to visit someone who could show him the ropes, much as Silda hoped for when visiting the Adams’ alpaca farm years later. On the search for a vineyard, they stayed at a bed and breakfast run by an English couple. The couple bred alpacas in their backyard and according to Alicia, Daniel “was mesmerised by them.”
Eager for change, they took a risk and rented a farm in Millbrook, New York to raise alpacas. Daniel engrossed himself in the world of breeding and farming alpacas while Alicia raised their young children. But two years in Alicia recalls thinking that “the children were getting a little bit older and they’re going off to preschool and I’m getting a little bit bored again” and so she decided, with no prior knowledge of alpaca fiber or knitting, to design her own products with their alpaca wool.
Alicia and her family. Photo credit: Alicia Adams Alpaca
She began with one simple idea: softness. Her focus was borne of a bittersweet memory: “I had these Austrian cardigans that I had to wear as a child in Salzburg in the summers and they all look pretty on the children but they’re a disaster because they’re boiled wool and they’re just so scratchy. They look nice but they’re super uncomfortable. I remember those so well and I promised myself that for my children I’m going to come up with a softer version of that.”
Getting her designs to feel right was not an easy task. To begin with, she immersed herself in the world of wool. She went to the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, an event she still loves to go to. She then visited many mills and knitters looking for the right collaborators. There was a long period of trial and error: “they all thought I was crazy because I was just wasting a lot of the fiber because I just wanted it to be really, really soft.”
To get this softness, Alicia only uses fiber that is of baby alpaca quality, that is to say, the finest fiber she can gather. But alpaca fiber has many advantages beyond its softness. It is the only natural fiber that is naturally hypoallergenic. It’s also a good insulator despite its light weight, thanks to its naturally insulating air pockets.
Photo credit: Alicia Adams Alpaca
Nine years on, their herd has grown to around 200 alpacas and her business is flourishing. She continues to design every aspect of her products, “I’m involved in every single button or every corner of every throw.” But Alicia considers herself “primarily a mother of four and then I have my business and this business definitely takes up 90% of the rest of my life.” She works on her designs in the day and afterwards helps her children with their homework.
Alicia Adams Alpaca flagship store in Millbrook, NY. Photo credit: Alicia Adams Alpaca
Indeed, Alicia seems to be an unusually tireless person. She says, “I wish the day would have more hours just to pack everything in that I need to do.” She does not wish that she had less work but that the she could do more. In her work and in her family, it seems Alicia has found her antidote to boredom.
Alicia also feels very grateful to be living in Millbrook. “We love living up here because of the wonderful mix of people who live here. We have all sorts of demographics and it’s really international and very sporty.” Assuring us that it is an "...ideal place to raise their children", Alicia speaks very highly of the boarding schools in the area. Today, she has her own store in Millbrook which she says sees a spike in sales during parents’ week.
Alicia’s New York State of Mind is Exciting. She always feels excited to come back to New York, to come back home.
Shop Alicia Adams Alpaca: