Human Material Loop turns hair into fabric (Credit: Humanmaterialloop.com)

As the fashion industry confronts sustainability and environmental challenges, designers are exploring innovative ways to reduce waste and minimize their ecological footprint. Zsofia Kollar, the founder of Human Material Loop, is turning to an unexpected resource to reduce her impact ‚ÄĒ human hair. The Dutch entrepreneur collects hair cuttings from hairdressers and transforms them into fabric for clothes, curtains, carpets, and furniture.

"Throughout history, we've utilized a variety of animal fibers in textiles, yet our own hair, composed of the same keratin protein as wool, often goes overlooked," Kollar says. "Why not treat human hair as we would any other valuable textile fiber?"

The fashion industry is a big contributor to global pollution (Credit: Baosquered.com/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Human hair as a biomaterial may seem like an odd choice, but it made perfect sense to Kollar. The readily available waste material requires no land, water, or resources to produce. Her fabric also saves thousands of tons of hair from ending up in landfills annually.

More importantly, this innovation could significantly reduce the need for synthetic fibers, such as polyester, which contribute to microplastic pollution. Additionally, the fabric could serve as a substitute for natural materials like cotton. Their production requires large quantities of water and polluting pesticides and fertilizers.

"Waste hair does not degrade any soil, require any pesticide, pollute any water, or produce any greenhouse gas emissions," Kollar points out.

Kollar hopes to transform a quarter of the annual global hair waste into fabric (Credit: Humanmaterialloop.com/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

The designer's process involves treating the cut hair with environmentally friendly chemicals. These chemicals help clean the hair and change its texture. Kollar says the resulting yarn can be dyed any color, except white, and be woven into a fabric that looks and feels like wool.

"Many times if people hear a fabric is made out of human hair, they‚Äôre like, ‚ÄėEww!‚Äô‚ÄĚ Kollar said. ‚ÄúBut if I just show them a sample and say, ‚ÄėWhat do you think of this?‚Äô they‚Äôre like, ‚ÄėOh, it‚Äôs cool.‚Äô And then when I tell them afterward it‚Äôs made of hair, it‚Äôs a very different reaction.‚ÄĚ

Human Material Loop, which was founded in 2021, is still in its early stages. So far, the hair fabric has only been used to create prototypes of materials and clothing. But Kollar has partnered with a high-end fashion label to launch a few of her eco-friendly garments later in 2024. The designer's ultimate dream is to transform a quarter of global salon waste ‚Äď a staggering 550,000 tons of human hair ‚Äď into fabric annually by 2034.

Resources: Washingtonpost.com, dezeen.com, fashionunited.uk