In 2008, Project Runway's Chris March sent human hair-clad models down the runway for his final hoorah, and a collective gasp was heard round the world. Then, designers Sonia Rykiel, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Maison Martin Margiela and Alena Akhmadullina's dotted their 2009 runways with human hair creations (receiving a barrage of mixed -- and of those, mostly negative -- reviews). Now, designers like Charlie Le Mindu, Grau Wal, and VPL are trying to bring human hair back in an even bigger way. But why hasn't it caught on yet? Are we really that grossed out with the idea of wearing lovely locks?
"Human hair is beautiful to wear and it's so interesting to work with. People just need to get over the fact they are wearing something from their body. They seem to think it is still living and that freaks them out." - Charlie Le Mindu, BBC News (June 2010)
So why the visceral reaction to human hair? After all, we've been wearing human hair in other ways for years (e.g. false eyelashes, wigs, hair extensions). And the reality is, there are additional benefits to be had. 1) It doesn't pollute the environment the way growing cotton does, aside from what is produced in the treatment of it. 2) It's also a sustainable resource, like bamboo, due to it's rapid growth. And, 3) It doesn't require the slaughter of animals for their pelts. Three very nice trade-off as it relates to the bigger picture, if you ask me.
"Three basic human needs are food, shelter, and clothing. Hair meets all three: You can grow food in it, build bricks from it, and make clothes from it. As the world's population increases and its resources dwindle, we would do well to use all of the materials at our disposal, even if they're swept from a barbershop floor." - Inventor Bill Black
The real issue stems from creating a viable textile out of it. That's because human hair is 100 times larger than today's synthetic microfibers (which are softer and possess better drape). Straight human hair also doesn't felt well, so it would need to be spun (requiring longer hairs to yield softer, more supple yarn). This probably explains why current designers are using it "as is" -- hanging, dangling, swishing in the wind. But if textile manufacturers put a little elbow grease into making it work, I imagine we'd be seeing more of it in the near future. And who knows? Maybe there will be a market for all that discarded porn industry pubic hair too.
In 10 years we'll all be wearing clothes made of human hair," says designer Charlie Le Mindu. "We just need to get our heads round the fact." BBC News (June 2010)