29 jun Human hair as a material for yarn: freaky?
About Meike She is all about innovation and materials. In fact, for her Artemis Academy graduation project she made caps out of human hair. Which is why it’s not so strange to find her designing these days in Eindhoven, the city where innovation and textiles meet. She has also freelanced as a designer and stylist. For her, it all began at ArtEz University of the Arts, where she studied fashion. But she abandoned that course because she found it too focused on becoming that singular, elusive ‘top designer’.
It’s time for a trim again, and I’m all in a sweat as the hairdresser assures – and reassures – me that she’s only going to take an inch off my long locks. Minutes later I look down at the floor and cringe: that’s definitely more than an inch. My hair, just like my outfit, is part of my identity, from which she’s gone and cut off a chunk. And on top of that, she’ll soon be throwing it in the rubbish bin! Then again, what else are you supposed to do with it? Is making textile from my hair a weird idea? Maybe not. After all, wool is sheep’s hair, and we wear that too.
Just like an outfit, our hair is seen by many people as part of their personal image. And they are usually very meticulous about it. The hair of the head is also considered somewhat superior to the rest of the hair on our body, which is not infrequently removed, shaved off or pulled out. Unlike the hair on our head, which it seems we just cannot have enough of – so much so that losing it is often traumatic.
“Our hair is part of our image. So people are very meticulous about it”
No clothes, just your own warm coat
There was once a time when we didn’t need to wear clothes at all because our skin was covered with a protective coat that kept us warm. Through evolution, however, most of that fuzzy layer has fallen out. And for our new ‘coat’, we use a huge amount of raw materials that were never actually meant to serve this purpose! So, just imagine if we were to start using that raw material again which was originally made for this – but then revamped? A raw material that we produce ourselves and which now just ends up on a mountain of waste.
Yes, I mean clothes made of human hair.
Sound crazy or dirty? It may seem a bit strange, but we’re already okay with wearing wool, right? That’s hair from sheep, which occasionally roll in dirt. At least most people don’t do that. And what about wigs? They are usually made of someone else’s hair, just like with hair extensions. We don’t find that dirty, do we?
Someone else’s hair
Perhaps it’s a strange idea to wear someone else’s hair. But what if it were your own hair? Now that would really make what you wear part of your identity. After all, your hair also contains your own DNA. The hair of loved ones is also an option. In that case, you would always have them with you – literally. Would we be more careful with these items? Would we mend them when they are in need of repair rather than tossing them into the wheelie bin, only to go out and buy something new? Referring back to my first column (Dutch): now this is really clothing with a story!
And yes, it can be done. Several years ago, I turned this idea into a project: making textile out of human hair. Since then, this ‘Capsel’ project has gone around the world, from the design Salone in Milan, via Wrocław (European Capital of Culture) to the newspaper in Beijing and more.
Capsel caused quite a shock
Yet at the beginning I was really hit by the shocking effect of this idea. In the art sector that’s often exactly what you want, but instead I also sought to make something that people would actually see as stunning and hopefully want to own.
I myself once lost a lot of my hair as my body’s reaction to the malaria tablets that I was taking. And considering my panic at seeing more than an inch of my hair on the hairdresser’s floor, you can probably imagine how devastated I was. But for most people, saying goodbye to your lovely locks, no matter what the reason, medical or otherwise, really is devastating.
“Capsel caused quite a shock, while my idea was to make something that was stunning”
The story – from hair loss to new product – ended up making it a lot easier for many people to accept and appreciate material made of human hair. The product, the cap, also appealed more to people’s imagination. That’s how the project got its name. Capsel is a combination of the word ‘cap’ and kapsel, Dutch for ‘haircut’ or ‘hair style’. The hair returns to its original owner in a different form. To make it even more accessible, I’ve also started to make jewellery, mainly bracelets. It’s a very subtle way of incorporating the hair, yet with a very personal result.
Snip, snip away
Today it’s time for another trim, but by now I have no problem with them taking four inches off. That’s the length of hair that I need to spin some nice thread for a bracelet. Shortly I’ll have a new kapsel and Capsel.
Win a bracelet made of your own hair!
What would it be like to wear a cap or bracelet made of your own hair? You could find out after the summer, because the #OWcapsel promotion runs for the whole month of September.
So, if you go to the hairdresser’s soon and have at least four inches of all your hair cut off, save it and send it to us in September. Three winners, drawn randomly from all entries, will receive a bracelet made of their own hair, crafted by Meike, delivered to their home.
Details on how and where to send your hair will be provided in July. And while you’re at it, why not include a before-and-after photo. Come on, don’t be shy!