Indian Fashion Entrepreneur Develops Ethical Vegan Wool From A Wasteland Plant

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Indian fashion designer and founder of Faborg has developed a new vegan wool alternative that is not only cruelty-free and ethical but sustainable too. Called “Weganwool”, the new fabric created by Gowri Shankar is derived from Calotropis, a flowering plant native to Asia and Northern Africa, which can be spun with organic cotton to create a material that rivals cashmere.  

On a mission to make the sweaters of your dreams cruelty-free and eco-friendly, Shankar has developed Weganwool, a new 100% vegan material spun out of fibres derived from Calotropis, a milkweed-like plant abundant in Asia and Northern Africa, which requires little water and no pesticides to grow.

The fibres are then blended with 70% organic cotton to produce a final product that mimics the feel of cashmere, while the rest of the leftover fibres are used to make a natural insect repellent called AKRA, to ensure that the entire process leaves behind no waste. 

Speaking to The Better India about how the idea came about, Shankar said: “I was just casually staring outside the window one afternoon in April and I noticed something. There were about 10 to 15 sunbirds surrounding this bush and they were making a nest using this particular fibre. It really got me thinking if this natural fibre could be transformed into a textile.”

“In the olden days, the plant extract was used for its insect repelling qualities. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties. We also found that this shrub naturally grew in soil that was stripped off nutrients and needed less water to survive,” he added. 

It really got me thinking if this natural fibre could be transformed into a textile.

Gowri Shankar

In addition to being environmentally-friendly and animal-free, the fabric itself also leaves behind a positive social impact with its production done primarily by hand by rural economies, providing small communities in the local region with an extra source of income. 

Weganwool has since been presented at Future Fabrics Expo held in January earlier this year in London and it has already been incorporated into the 2021 winter collection of German ethical children’s fashion brand Infantium Victoria. 

Other Indian entrepreneurs are also coming up with creative ways to upcycle natural plant-based resources into vegan-friendly materials. One startup, Phool, recently made headlines for crafting a vegan leather called “fleather” out of leftover floral waste, a solution that is both ethical and circular. 

Meanwhile, a new pair of vegan sneakers on the market launched by the sustainable label Pangaia are also designed to embrace zero-waste by incorporating a faux leather derived from the byproducts of grapes from wine production that would otherwise end up as food waste.


Lead image courtesy of Faborg / Weganwool.


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