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Behind the Dog

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This story takes us far away, o’er rolling hills and verdant fields, to the distant Andean mountains of Peru. Here nature paints the world in deep rocky purples, vibrant grassy clumps of green and blue blue skies. And here the herds of alpaca roam, dotting the landscape with tumbling shades of white, beige and brown.  

There’s something magical and fascinating about these adorable, fluffy alpaca; growing and thriving in the harsh and extreme weather conditions 4,000 feet above the sea, yet still exuding such sweetness and charm. Temperatures plunge from the hottest peaks of the midday sun to the depths of cold, wintry nights in a single day. Our hardy alpacas, though, hardly seem to mind. Their soft furry wool; so light and fine, works to protect them from broiling heat and brutal cold alike.

alpacas in field

Small alpaca herd in the Andean mountain range 

Treasured for all the amazing qualities so uniquely designed to help them survive; the alpaca’s wool is truly an awe-inspiring natural material. And that brings us to the point of this whole story- a spotlight on our adorable little stuffed alpaca dogs.

It’s these alpaca dogs that were the lynchpin for our entire ThePlayBox collection (browse it here). Customers were searching for the perfect baby gift for that friend or relative who already had it all. You know, the one who coordinated their entire nursery with the baby’s wardrobe, days after their gender announcement… We needed to create a gift that would be not only luxurious (of course, that goes without saying), but also beautiful and useful without being another baby outfit set.

color palette

Color palette for ThePlayBox

As always, planning started with my favorite part- the mood board. We kept the palette all neutral grays, beiges and whites; aiming to fill the gift box with natural, pleasing, gender neutral finds. I scoured the web and google images for inspiration, pinning happily, when I came across these adorable stuffed animals. My breath stopped for a moment. I was thoroughly obsessed. I knew this had to be part of our gift set. Quickly, I followed the link on the image.  

It was linked to an Alibaba factory in China. They didn’t actually produce the dogs; they used that image to promote their synthetic (pink!) stuffed animals. I searched high and low for those dogs. No one sold them wholesale, no one seemed to produce them either. I kept finding factories that promised to manufacture them, only finding that they’d never actually done it before, and didn’t even know where to source real alpaca wool. It was a mystery to me where the image I’d clipped had even originated from!

mood board

Moodboard for ThePlayBox

Finally, through a contact of one of our really good friends, I was directed to search in Peru. There, among the indigenous people of the mountains, I finally discovered some artisans, well-schooled in the art of product-making using the native alpaca wool. Now our gorgeous little dogs could be produced.

Located right by the fields and mountains of the alpaca herds, the artisans cover the entire process. With deep respect for the animals they raise ingrained in their culture; they carefully and gently shear the alpacas once a year. The long, furry-soft wool is washed, combed and sewn straight onto the stuffed dog forms. Together, we chose to keep the fur naturally colored, to capture the authenticity and integrity of the alpaca’s original form. 

From the herds, freshly shorn, to the final, cuddly dogs; each step is executed with exacting love and care; right there, in the heart of the Andean mountains in Peru. 

Alpaca stuffed animals

The final cuddly dog

And that, my friends, is the story behind our cuddly alpaca dogs.

 

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