Innovations From Artisans Passionate About the Environment
The following article by Delia Montgomery, Environmental Fashion Consultant, first appeared in Chevy Chaser Magazine (Lexington, KY), February 25, 2002.
Natural fibers such as, wool and fur are timeless favorites in classic patterns. But day after day of traditional styles can get as boring as fashion in recession. Something entirely new has to evolve to stir excitement in the roller-coaster life of vogue designing.
Rest assured, artisans who are passionate about our environment have been busy planting seeds of enthusiasm. Unique fiber crafts and new innovations are perking buyers up. In fact au naturel and tasteful textile styling are merging as I write. Allow me to share some examples.
FoxWool from Fur Remnants
Word got out that SAGA fur company invested research on the Design Centre’s development of fur and wool blended fabrics. Their mission was to recycle surplus hair from mink and fox garment production. After all, incinerating was a costly and wasteful regime.
As a result, FoxWool was created. Due to copy-cat fears, details are confidential and confirmation is out of the question. But if FoxWool does go to market, the supply of raw material will be limited. Yet considering the exclusivity of mink and fox, that may not be such a bad thing.
With SAGA’s talented students and the Design Centre’s technical facility, it’s logical to predict that cutting-edge techniques are approaching takeoff. I think consumers are about to witness a surge of creativity and FoxWool fabric is just one potential example of breaking new ground. Although I’m stirring gossip here, I suspect FoxWool, or something like it, is imminent from SAGA soon.
Fur and Cotton Yarn
Paula Lishman is an inspiring fur designer to watch. She makes yarn from a thin, continuous strip of fur, such as sheared beaver, fox and muskrat, reinforced with color-matched cotton. Her garments range from approximately $200 for a scarf, $4,000 for a stroller, and up to $10,000 for a large blanket. She has recently begun selling fur yarn for about $1 a foot, so that home knitters can create their own designs.
Demand for Lishman garments is growing not only in her homeland, Canada, but in Japan, the United States and Europe. Paula is on the cutting edge of a new and acceptable way to wear fur. Her use of wild fur, humanely taken from over-populated species, is respectful of the animals and in harmony with Earth’s natural systems. Paula says she views fur yarn as a “sustainable and quickly renewable resource.”
In addition to Paula, keep your eyes and ears open for road-to-fame, award-winning designers Mariouche GagnŽ and Veronique Miljkovitch. All three of these Canadian, fur-tailoring gals adamantly claim to be animal lovers and are expressing themselves in their fabulous creations.
Qiviut from Musk Ox
Qiviut, pronounced kiv-ee-ute, is encouraging small farmers and intriguing the craft market as one of the finest natural fibers obtainable. Qiviut is the downy-soft underside wool from the Arctic Musk Ox. The raw fiber of musk ox (sometimes muskox, one word) is unlike any other animal fiber, and word is slowly getting out to fashion designers.
Musk ox are large animals that look a lot like bison or buffalo, are significantly smaller than cows and provide wool like sheep. Their long brown fur hangs almost to their feet. They are peaceful animals that only eat plants and are full grown in six years. Their name comes from the musky smell of their urine, which is especially strong in mating season.
The musk ox shed their fleece once a year, typically in spring, and grow a new layer each fall. Musk ox usually bear only one calf every two years. The fleece yield is five to seven pounds per musk ox, which is cleaned and de-haired by hand. The yarn is typically spun in co-ops or cashmere factories.
Spinners claim that qiviut is eight times warmer than wool and extraordinarily lightweight. It’s not scratchy and doesn’t shrink in hot water. It can be hand-washed in any mild detergent and will last for many years.
If you’ve never heard of musk ox, don’t feel alone. They’re not everywhere. Today they can be found roaming wild in Canadian Northwest Territories, Greenland, Russia and Norway. They are farm-raised in Alaska and Montana.
If you visit Alaska, you will find woven musk ox wool scarves at many tourist shops. Each Alaskan village offers a unique signature pattern of qiviut derived from traditional aspects of life where they live. There is a small Canadian company that specializes in qiviut processing, and they supply it to manufacturers worldwide. In Montana, qiviut fibers and yarns are sold to knitters in fashionable colors.
Musk ox have made a strong comeback from near extinction. That’s good news to the animals, farming villagers and fashion enthusiasts!
Also by this author:
Fur Ethics, November 2001.