German designer creates “silk” from fabric process using milk

In what may be one of the more unusual fashion developments in recent years, a researcher for the Germany-based Textile Research Association has created a new clothing fabric made primarily from treated milk.

Known as Qmilch, the material is sourced from casein, a protein found in dairy products that is a key component in cheesemaking and can be worked from its normal liquid state into something more solid. The creator of the new fabric, Anke Domaske, utilized powdered milk byproduct from local dairy farms that, due to strict processing standards in Germany, was otherwise unusable.

According to the website of the company that creates the textile, the process takes approximately an hour and involves boiling the compounds down to their base elements and weaving them into strands that, eventually, are pulled together to create the cloth-like product. The method, writes eco-friendly fashion website FastCompany, builds on an older Chinese method that used organic materials, but involved nearly 60 hours of work and required a significant amount of water to produce results.

Domaske was quoted as saying that the initial intention behind the project was to provide a means to make clothing that people who are allergic to synthetic materials could wear.

"We thought there must be a way to keep a natural resource, such as milk, natural," Domaske told the fashion site. "My stepdad suffered from cancer and received a textile allergy. We were looking for chemical-free fashion but couldn’t find any – even natural fibers are treated with pesticides that cannot be removed completely nowadays."

While the product is still relatively new on the market, it could pave the way to more environmentally-friendly clothing for both fashionistas and everyday people.

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