German Designer Launches Milk-Based Fabric
Published: November 16, 2011 (Issue # 1683)
HANNOVER, Germany — Wear Milk? Anke Domaske says why not.
The 28-year-old German is the designer of an award-winning new textile made entirely from milk that’s environmentally friendly as well as soothing to people with skin allergies. Called “Qmilch,” it drapes and folds like silk, but can be washed and dried like cotton.
The biochemist and fashion designer has so far only used the fabric to make dresses for her own MCC fashion line. But next year Domaske has plans to begin mass producing — and several companies have already expressed interest in using the fabric.
Qmilch — a combination of quality and the German word for milk — won the innovation award of Germany’s Textile Research Association, which recognized it as a new, sustainable fiber that could revolutionize the clothing industry.
Currently, apparel depends heavily on byproducts from oil, or natural resources such as water — used in the thousands of liters to produce just a bolt of cotton.
“We know that everything that is based on oil has a limit, that materials like cotton that take up a lot of land, water and chemicals are limited, so we need to think about how we in produce fabrics and textiles in the future,” said Klaus Jansen, who heads the Textile Research Association.
Tatjana Berthold, a seamstress for Domaske’s MCC fashion line has been cutting and sewing the fabric into dresses for the past year.
“At first I did not believe that it was made from milk, but when you work with it, you notice that it feels different from normal fabrics,” said Berthold. She cast Domaske a sly sideways glance, then confessed to have privately made a pair of pajamas from a scrap she had been given.
Domaske’s quest for a natural, non-irritating fabric began after watching her stepfather suffer through terrible skin irritations while being treated for cancer. “There are so many people who really suffer just by wearing normal clothing. I wanted to find a way to help them.”
After two years of trial and error, working with a research lab, Domaske and her team of six finally landed on a process of reducing milk to a protein powder that is then boiled and pressed into strands that can be woven into a fabric.
The strands, she says, can be spun rougher for a heavier texture, or shiny smooth, to create a soft jersey that drapes and feels like silk.
Domaske concedes that at $28 per kilogram, her fabric costs more to produce than even organic cotton, which goes for about 40 percent less. But she hopes local production will keep down transport costs and reduce the overall price.
She also notes that only 2 liters of water is needed to produce 1 kilogram of fabric, or enough to make several standard dresses. By comparison, the same amount of cotton requires more than 10,000 liters of water.
The designer, who works from the central German city of Hannover, has already received interest from car manufacturers and members of the medical and hospital industries.