The goal of this project was to imitate animal fur using natural human hair and to design a fashion object that would incorporate this material. The idea was to create a visually beautiful piece that would help people overcome their prejudiced perception of human hair.
The project addresses the principles of Okala design, particularly avoiding materials that damage health or deplete non-renewable resources and using reclaimed or renewable materials instead, eliminating waste and emissions, integrating methods for material collection, and encouraging sustainable life style by creating timeless aesthetic.
The storage of real fur and maintenance of animal farms requires the same (if not larger) amount of energy as the production of faux fur. In addition, animals are treated violently on many farms. Using faux fur as an alternative to real fur is proven unsustainable for many reasons – it requires the abuse of non-renewable and synthetic materials, is polluting, energy-consuming and puts the workers’ health at risk.
Natural human hair is a renewable natural resource that is similar to animal fur in many ways. Its main function is to maintain the optimal body temperature, which means it can be used for winter clothes like coats or hats. Using human hair has some economical advantages too. People would sell their hair to the manufacturer like they do for wigs. No one would get hurt and there would be no need in farms or other expenses. Waste hair from hair salons could also be utilized. Of course, there should be certain criteria for the quality of the hair and the hair sellers should report on how they treated it.
The technique I used in this project was based on weaving, utilized in the faux fur production. In this process, the fibers are looped through and interlaced with the backing fabric. I took it as an example for my project, using natural human hair instead of fibers and cross-stitch canvas as the backing fabric.
After I had threaded the hair, I secured it with glue on the back so that it wouldn’t fall out; then I cut the loops and sheared them. I didn’t want to give them a perfectly unified length because I aimed for a more natural and messy look. I made two rows – one short and the other a bit longer – using this technique. By the end I had a lot of waste – hair that was too short for weaving – but I didn’t want to throw it out so I found a way to utilize it too. I felted the leftover hair and attached it to canvas with a thread.
Making of the fur took me about 2 weeks. However, it went much faster once I’ve figured out the algorithm. Then I used the fur and fabric I found in the recycle bin to create the hat. None of the materials got wasted during the process.