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Human Hair: An Untapped Textile?

As we have all come to learn, fashion is a leading industry for both environmental waste and unjust labor practices. There is an undeniable need to find new and sustainable materials, specifically ones that are natural, easily accessible, and ethically sourced. After decades of depleting the planet of its resources, perhaps it’s time to look inwards?

The use of human hair as a natural material is by no means a new concept. Throughout history objects such as ropes, fishing nets, brushes/brooms etc. can all be found made from human hair. Human hair as a textile within fashion however is less common. This is interesting considering how much we value the hair of animals for our garments yet we choose to draw the line at our own. In fact we treat loose human hair with the same prejudice we hold against dirt and filth.

Dutch designer, Zsofia Kollar, shared the same perplexity saying “How much we care about our hair, but once it’s cut, we are so disgusted by it,”. Kollars’ brand Human Material Loop (@humanmaterialloop) is trying to turn human hair into a textile for the mainstream market. Using the 72 million kgs of hair thrown away by salons every year, the Human Loop Collective treat, spin, and dye the hair to create the universally loved silhouette of a “wool” sweater.

Apart from being a natural fibre, human hair also carries a larger social and cultural connotation. Our hair often symbolizes a sense of identity and connection. Many cultures believe hair can hold trauma, loss, and emotions. Weaving hair into our modern textile systems could bring up the ethicality behind using human DNA as a material source.

The potential of human hair raises many thought-provoking questions about the relationship between materials and the human body. What would it mean for our identity to wear a garment made from the hair of someone else? Can we see ourselves as a natural material source since we, like everything we use, come from this Earth as well? Perhaps it makes sense for a greener future to come from our bodies, fulfilling the prophecy of a true circular solution?

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