Photographs by Bruna Rotunno The smallest of the camelids, the vicuña, lives free in the wilds of South America. Known as the Queen of the Andes, this naturally graceful animal can survive the cold nights and long winters in the mountain highlands thanks to its extremely soft and highly prized fleece. In the north of Argentina, where its coat is lighter in colour to blend in with the chilly hues of the landscape, it is called “The Gold of the Puna.” During the days of the Inca Empire this diminutive creature inspired legends and folk tales, to the point that it was regarded as sacred. Hunting the species was therefore viewed as sacrilegious, and its magnificent fleece was reserved exclusively for the emperor and his family. However, when the Spanish conquistadores began to arrive in the New World in the early sixteenth century, they set about systematically massacring the vicuña, as this was the fastest way to get their hands on large quantities of its “divine fiber.” After centuries of ruthless poaching, by the 1960s the species was at risk of extinction. Thanks to a series of international measures proclaiming it a protected species, and with the collaboration of the local governments and people, the vicuña was ultimately saved. Loro Piana has been involved in these initiatives for thirty years, bearing the utmost respect for the people of the Andes and their ancient traditions. Now, thanks to the efforts of responsible business, the Queen of the Andes continues to dress the world.