Up at 5AM: The 5AM Solutions Blog

Got Milk (Clothes)?

Posted on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 @ 02:27 PM

recylced milk resized 600Just the other day, I saw a story on a German fashion designer making clothes from milk (YouTube video article). It sounds crazy, but looks quite impressive. No, it’s not a “modern” exhibit of smelly congealed milk somehow formed into a gelatinous, slimy looking onesie (at least that’s what I imagined reading the headline) or Lady Gaga’s meat dress. There is a fine line between sustainable and gross. Anke Domaske, a microbiologist and the designer behind Mademoiselle Chi-Chi and the newest milk line has demonstrated the isolation of the protein from spoiled milk, mixed in other ingredients and made fiber that can be spun into yarn. The process only takes an hour and is eco-friendly since it recycles milk (although I wonder if all the methane from cows producing the milk was factored into the eco-friendliness calculation). The clothes look completely normal, and apparently resemble the look and feel of silk, with the properties of cotton.

I was impressed by this development, but apparently milk fiber isn’t a new thing. The Doshi Group, explains the process that has been around since the late 1930s and provides a figure outlining the steps. milk clothes resized 600

Although obviously this isn’t as novel of an idea as I thought it was initially, I still think it’s pretty great. Perhaps the world wasn’t ready for milk clothes back in the 1930’s-1940’s, or maybe the developments since than have made the fabric more wearable and appealing, or maybe the green movement (and the sheer novelty of the clothes) will help propel support for this “new”, allegedly eco friendly fabric. Either way, it’s still yet another reminder of how science and research can (and do) affect everyone. I always feel like people are looking at me like an alien when I tell them I’m a bioinformatics scientist, and I see their eyes slowly start glazing over with confusion when I explain it’s a cross field of computer science and biology. I wonder how Anke feels describing her bio-fashionista background. What would her title be- a biofashionetics expert? Being in the field, I constantly see the pay off of collaboration and integration of various people’s strengths and backgrounds into projects and research. I’m happy to see that something as accessible and understandable to everyone as clothing is pointing out just how much collaboration, innovation, creativity and science is necessary to make a useful and beneficial result.

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