There are so many ways to make our lives more sustainable. From reducing plastic and recycling appropriately, to reducing our meat consumption and walking and cycling more.
But of all, this new trend is probably the most unusual. We all know fast fashion is damaging, so Amsterdam-based designer Zsofia Kollar wants to shake up the textile industry by making clothes from human hair.
To do this, she goes around local hairdressing salons to recover her “raw materials”.
âIn Europe, 72 million kg of human hair waste is generated,â Kollar told Euronews Green.
âHair waste ends up in landfills, accumulates in large quantities in solid waste streams, choking drainage systems. “
Learning about all of this was reason enough for Kollar to think of a viable solution to the problem – so she founded Human material loop.
The advantages of human hair as a material
âHuman hair is a material that is available all over the world. It’s not like cotton or wool which can only be sold in a specific area, âKollar explains. This allows for local production and a local workforce.
By producing clothes locally, the amount of CO2 polluting the air is reduced because the transport of large containers filled with fabric will no longer be necessary. âLocal production allows us to produce only on demand,â she explains.
Think about the paradox – we waste so much human hair, but at the same time, it’s normal for us to wear sheep or alpaca hair in our clothes. Human hair is a keratin protein fiber just like animal hair, but it is environmentally friendly, so why don’t we exploit it?
Kollar explains, âWhile animal hair must be treated with chemicals to remove the blood and droppings that end up in our water, human hair is pretty much good to go. It only has to be steamed. Unlike animal hair, it is also cruelty-free.
A closed loop recycling system
A prototype sweater has so far been produced by Human Loop Material, based on knitting patterns by designer Li Jiahao in The Hague.
Since the hair was collected in the Netherlands, the prototype is called âDutch Blondeâ and is made from 100% recycled human hair. But the yarn is currently produced in a spinning mill in Italy.
âIn the future, I plan to have all the material produced locally,â says Kollar. His plan is for the collected hair that is too short to be used for spinning yarn and then reused as a natural fertilizer, as it supplies nitrogen to the plants when they decompose.
In this way, designer Zsofia Kollar creates a closed loop system that avoids leftovers or waste from production.
How does the fashion industry at large waste resources?
Global Campaign Group Fashion revolution is yet another organization that is striving for a closed loop system because it claims the industry is damaging to the environment.
âCurrently, fashion is based on an extremely exploitative industry within the capitalist system. It harnesses our resources, our environment and everyone who works there, âsays Dieuwertje de Wagenaar, National Fashion Revolution Coordinator and Project Manager of the Circular Fashion Lab at Wageningen University.
In the past 15 years, fashion production has doubled globally, she tells Euronews Green – and two-thirds of that clothing is made from fossil fuel fibers.
âLess than 1% of clothes are recycled into new clothes, which would constitute the ultimate loop. Most of it is thrown away, dumped or devalued into products that we can no longer recycle, âshe says.
According to de Wagenaar, this means that a lot of resources are used in the production process and the clothes are only worn for a short time.
In the end, most of them are thrown away.
Why it is important to use existing materials
Yophi Ignacia, other Fashion Revolution country coordinator and founder of The Future Mode advise looking at materials that already exist – just like human hair.
From a designer’s perspective, I think it’s important to look at all of the different material options out there. We have to ask ourselves what other types of materials can we use to diversify this system. For Ignacia, the idea of ââHuman Material Loop makes sense, as there is waste that can be turned into new resources without needing to cultivate it first.
âI think it’s a lasting solution because something is being used that would otherwise be thrown away. It’s thinking about sustainability in a circular fashion.
Designer Zsofia Kollar is convinced that it can have an impact with human hair to make the fashion and textile industry more sustainable in the long run. âIn the past, people used all kinds of materials around them. For example, hair ropes were very common. But nowadays, we seem to have forgotten that human hair is also a natural material, âshe says.
“So I try to help people to become more open to different materials again and I hope that in the future wearing a human hair sweater will be normal.”