Clothing made out cow manure might sound gross, but before you turn up your nose and pooh-pooh the idea, big fashion retailers like H&M are here to change your mind. Despite most of us being surprised or even shook by the idea of wearing an animal byproduct such as poop, biocouture has actually been around for several years; pooh-fabric being one of the most promising innovations.
Dutch designer, Jalila Essaidi, is responsible for creating the process, having already completed an entire collection using cow manure, or as she calls it Mestic – and no it does not smell. Along with giving the fabric a much more appealing name, Essaidi also won awards, including $200,000 from Chivas Venture, and an H&M Foundation Global Change Award.
Essaidi tells the Guardian, “The process is chemical and mechanical… When you collect manure, it’s a combination of urine and cow poop, 80% water. We separate the dry and wet fraction. The wet fraction is fermented and we [extract] solvents to transform the cellulose, which is nothing other than the grass and corn the cows eat.”
When put that way, the idea of wearing clothing made out of manure doesn’t seem quite as daunting… So much so, that H&M has confirmed their intentions to use the inventive fabric source. As part of a sweeping movement to become 100% sustainable by 2040, and having already invested in a number of innovative eco-friendly practices, cow poop clothing is the next natural move.
Communications manager at the H&M Foundation, Malin Björne, states, “The world is already consuming the equivalent of approximately 1.6 of the planet’s worth of resources every year, and there is an urgent opportunity to shift to a model where valuable materials are recovered.” So essentially, whether we like it or not, people are going to have to get used to unconventional materials, especially those made from animal byproduct.
While one of the obvious reasons for this sort of progression is to create more biodegradable and energy-efficient fabrics, cow-poop clothing also pairs with the issue of what to do with excess cow manure. A large percentage of pollution in waterways can be pegged to run off so it turns out cow manure helps resolve more than one issue.
Although, the biggest win here, isn’t the innovation itself, but rather Essaidi’s effort to bring it to the mass market. Traditionally, biocouture has had issues with scalability in the past, but Essaidi is working on changing that. As of now, the Dutch designer is partnering with 15 farmers in Eindenhoven to create an industrial scale manure refinery that will hopefully be able to serve retailers on a much larger scale.
Along with H&M, Essaidi has also claimed that other retailers have shown an interest in signing on, but won’t explicitly state that they are using poop-fabric on the labels. So, it seems that whether you like it or not, you might be wearing manure in the near future without even knowing it. But, perhaps it’s better that way: what you don’t know can’t hurt you.