Behind the Design: My Big Love for Llamas

by Dana Lee (Madewell)

Ever since I sketched the design for our Llama Love Sweater, people have been asking me why I chose that funny little animal. And now that it’s just hit Madewell stores, you may be wondering about it too. So here’s the story: I’ve always really, really, really loved camelids—llamas, alpacas and vicunas included. As a sweater designer, I first fell in love with chunky Peruvian alpaca yarns for how soft and luxe they were and for all the beautiful natural colors they came in. There’s something about these yarns that makes you feel so homey and warm in the winter.

Beyond the yarn, I’ve always loved how funny and cute they look—especially that fuzzy fur and those big eyes and superlong eyelashes. So oddly adorable! When I was in Ecuador, I actually spent hours taking photos of llamas on mountaintops—and tried to squeeze myself into every possible shot. I still remember one llama squinting his eyes and staring right at me: He didn’t move an inch or break his stare, and the nonchalant look on his face was absolutely priceless!

At the flea market, I purchased essentially every existing llama figurine and llama-patterned object, and to this day, whenever I come across anything llama, I have to get it. 

For Madewell’s holiday collection, we wanted to do a whimsical animal sweater, and before anyone blinked, I knew that animal would have to be a llama! Check out the graphic closely and you’ll see I made sure their big eyes and eyelashes were featured prominently. Hopefully everyone enjoys wearing this cozy little sweater as much as I loved designing it.