Human hair in the textile industry
We often put a lot of care into our hair, but after it’s been cut, we just throw it away. That’s a terrible shame, according to designer Zsofia Kollar. With her 100% Dutch blond knitted sweater, she wants to prove that human hair can change the textile industry.
How did you come up with the idea to make a sweater out of human hair?
‘The sweater is a product of the Human Material Loop project. In this project, my team and I are examining if we can use waste hair as a material in the textile industry. I made this sweater to demonstrate that human hair can be recycled and treated like any other fibre, such as wool or alpaca.’
Why is that important to you?
‘The textile industry is incredibly polluting, and we’re running out of fuel. If we want to preserve our planet, we need to make radical changes. This is my way of creating a closed ecosystem for the textile industry. We aim to develop high-quality textiles with the lowest possible carbon footprint.’
How do people react to clothing made of human hair?
‘Hair is often perceived as something nasty rather than a beautiful and valuable material. With this sweater, I want to change that perception. Human hair is cruelty-free and comes with zero carbon emissions. That’s the story that needs to be told. I think it’s odd that we put so much care into our hair and then throw it away after it’s been cut. We can still add so much value to it.'
What else could be made out of hair?
‘We are constantly developing new ideas. For example, we are working on a method to clean up the ocean because one kilogramme of hair will absorb seven litres of oil. We also came up with an alternative to fragrance sticks. When you soak hair in fragrant oil, it retains the scent for the longest time. And we work on pieces of cloth, pillows, carpets, curtains, and much more.’
What are the advantages of hair as a material?
‘It is as strong as steel and has a great elastic quality. Hair can be stretched to one and a half times its own length before breaking. It could be used to make scaffolding for construction or rope for boats. But those are ideas for the future. For now, our focus is on the textile industry.’
Where do you get the hair?
‘We get it from local hair salons. We aim for a textile industry without waste, but also without transport emissions.’
Do you ever wear your own hair sweater?
‘Not yet, we are not there yet. We are still in the development phase. Besides, the sweater is extremely warm. Human hair is made up of keratin proteins, just like wool and alpaca. So, it’s more suitable for the winter.’
How important is your own hair to you?
‘My hair reflects my character and identity. Throughout history, human hair has meant different things to different cultures. For me, it’s primarily a symbol of freedom because I decide how to wear it.’
Does your hair influence your mood?
‘Yes, when my hair looks good, it gives me a boost, and I feel more successful and in control. There is a reason they give ‘dignity haircuts’ to homeless people. Those people get free haircuts because it restores their dignity. So that’s how important hair is. By the way, I’m having a bad hair day today. I’m travelling and didn’t bring my moisturisers and oils, haha.’