“The proteins in the powder care for the skin,” said 28-year-old Anke Domaske, who has founded the QMilch line, explaining how she believes the technique she came up with in cooperation with the Bremen Fibre Institute could have applications for other industries, including medicine.
Of course it's not just powdered milk that goes in the clothes, but the process could be a breakthrough for the fashion industry, which is looking for new ways to create cheaper and environmentally friendly clothing.
So-called “bio-clothing” has become a hot trend in the fashion industry. Big European companies like H&M and C&A have been released organic cotton lines.
“The issue of sustainability has become a great advertising vehicle,” said Heike Scheuer, a spokeswoman with the International Association of Natural Textile Industry.
But many organic materials used by designers are scarce and expensive on the international market. That, Domaske said, is a reason her technique could become popular.
It works by putting the powder, along with a few other natural ingredients, in a machine reminiscent of a meat grinder. The fibre that emerges is then spun into yarn to make clothing.
But Domaske may still need to convince her critics in the coming years.
Hans-Peter Fink, professor at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research in Potsdam, believes bio-based fibres are the wave of the future: “Big industry is trying to broaden the resource base,” he said.
But he is sceptical about making textiles from powdered milk, saying more testing is needed to see if it is really better or cheaper than existing materials on the market.
Domaske, however, remains enthusiastic. “We have had a lot of incredibly good luck. Many people can't imagine that we have developed this fibre in just two years,” she said.