• Tech Tech

Designer aims to revolutionize fashion industry with unexpected material: 'We often forget how remarkable it is'

"We would like to develop something that can last decades and generations."

"We would like to develop something that can last decades and generations."

Photo Credit: iStock

Zsofia Kollar was always fascinated by human hair — our perception of it, how much of it ends up in the trash, and its potential to create textiles.

This curiosity led her to launch the Human Material Loop in 2021 to transform human hair waste from salons into natural fibers for clothes and home furnishings. Kollar is a material designer, entrepreneur, and environmentalist committed to recycling human hair and offsetting the estimated 32 tons of hair thrown away daily in the U.S. and Canada. 

However, textiles made from human hair aren't just sustainable — they're also durable, versatile, and long-lasting. 

"Hair is so common that we often forget how remarkable it is," Nicolás Rivero wrote in The Washington Post. "It has a strength-to-weight ratio similar to steel: One head of hair could suspend two elephants in the air. It holds heat, sheds water, and traps oil. It springs back into shape when bent and can stretch up to 70 percent of its length without breaking".

There are significant environmental benefits to using human hair to make textiles, starting with keeping it out of landfills and incinerators that release toxic, planet-warming gases into the air. Hair recycling also bypasses the need to drill for oil for synthetic fibers and clear land for cotton production. According to Human Material Loop, human hair fabric is also hypoallergenic, antibacterial, free of plastics and toxins, thermally insulated, and moisture-regulating. 

Yet textiles are just the beginning of what discarded human hair can do. Other companies and organizations are using it in beauty products, fertilizer, and to clean up oil-contaminated lakes. Using existing production facilities to create human hair fabrics makes it possible to take local climate action and minimize shipping pollution.

To create her fashion designs, Kollar started experimenting with her own hair and received hair donations from salons and wig factories. Human Material Loop produces human hair fabrics in small batches now, but Kollar said she is working toward full-scale production to offer customers competitive pricing in the future. 

She's in good company alongside other renewable resources organizations, such as Matter of Trust, which collects and recycles hundreds of tons of hair annually. 

Kollar aims to make 550,000 tons of human hair fabric annually by 2034 and turn a quarter of global salon waste into cloth.

"Looking at fashion and how everything is disposable today in that space, we would like to develop something that can last decades and generations," Kollar said

Visit Human Material Loop's website to learn how to get involved as an investor or beauty or textile industry professional.

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