Saying “that dress is the sh*t” isn’t merely a figure of speech anymore.
Dutch artist and entrepreneur Jalila Essaidi has developed a little something called Manure Couture that just might have the potential to revolutionize the fashion industry — the fast-fashion industry, at least. Earlier this month, H&M bestowed Essaidi (and four other fashionable innovators, including one genius that turns wine into fake leather) with its Global Change Award, a recognition that comes complete with a $160,000 grant and “access to a one-year innovation accelerator.” Essaidi quickly told the awards organization it would all be put toward persuading the powers that be in the fashion industry that cow poop (yes, actual cow poop) “is a valuable resource to create new environmentally friendly materials.”
How does bovine waste become clothing, exactly? Essaidi and her team have discovered a way to turn the abundant cellulose contained in cow manure into a soft, biodegradable fabric called Mestic, whose invention the clearly creative Dutch designer says on her personal website “is all about transforming raw matter into future opportunities.” And no: It doesn’t smell.
To get from cow poop to couture is, expectedly, a bit of an intricate process. First, the dry and wet components of the manure are separated; the dry manure is processed to extract that all-important pure cellulose, which is then mixed with acids extracted from the wet manure to make cellulose acetate, aka natural liquid plastic, and ultimately transformed into fibers that can be turned into materials like bio-textiles, plastics, and paper. And the best part? Cow dung is a huge polluter, as Essaidi points out, releasing copious amounts of phosphate and nitrogen into the environment — but this innovative new use for it could help change all that.
“I just want people to give a sh*t about the planet,” Essaidi told Vogue U.K. And H&M clearly agrees. Six years ago, the company launched its Conscious Fashion Collection with the aim of creating fashionable clothing more sustainably, and recently it upped the ante, announcing intentions to become 100 percent circular and renewable by 2030 with the help of sustainable fashion innovations like Essaidi’s Manure Couture — which, luckily for environmentally conscious fans of fast fashion, actually looks surprisingly luxurious. Just take a look at some sample clothing items made from Mestic, even showcased in a promotional fashion show from June 2016.
Meaning that, if you can stomach it, donning a dress made of cow dung might become both the fashionable and eco-friendly thing to do. After all, both H&M and Calvin Klein have found a way to make recycled plastic bottles look glam; why not cow poop?
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