The Way Business should be…


Image: Ariel Azoff

Image: Ariel Azoff

by Ariel Azoff  from www.

Fashion designers are inventors, and often business owners to boot. Realizing that the world is turning increasingly towards the use of renewable resources, some enterprising and forward-thinking designers are following suit (pun intended). The result is a new and crazy world of sustainable fashion materials you’ve probably never heard of. I’ll cover four of the strangest in this post.

QMilch: Sour Milk Silk

German fashion designer Anke Domaske is also a microbiologist and has invented a way to turn sour milk (a waste product) into silky dresses that have been worn by the likes of Mischa Barton.

It’s called “QMilch.” The “q” stands for “quality” and “milch” is the German word for milk. The primary ingredient is casein, a protein extracted from sour milk. It’s mixed will all natural and organic ingredients (like water and beeswax) and fed into a machine that turns them into fibers, which are in turn spun into soft soft fabric.

QMilch has some wonderful properties, such as being antibacterial and biodegradable. Domaske hopes that its uses will eventually expand beyond clothing to industries like cosmetics and automobiles.

It’s an incredible eco-friendly fabric, too. Aside from being produced without any chemicals, it recycles discarded milk, biodegrades instead of taking up landfill space, and is made using renewable energy from photovoltaic cells and wind turbines. Talk about green.

Ingeo Corn Fabric

Using biotechnology, NatureWorks company developed a fabric called Ingeo in partnership with Cargill and Dow Chemical. The raw materials are made by fermenting sugar extracted from corn. It is then turned into pellets that are converted into fabric.

Image: Ariel Azoff

Image: Ariel Azoff

The fabric is the fabric is color-fast, wrinkle free, resilient, drapable, hypoallergenic, stain resistant, and wicks away moisture. And, if you get tired of your Ingeo apparel, just throw it on the compost pile where it will decompose in 60 – 90 days.

Image: Ariel Azoff

Image: Ariel Azoff

Currently, Ingeo appears to be used most in bedding. Target sells an Ingeo pillow, and a quick Google Shopping search yielded mainly comforters and socks. I did find one or two dresses, but use of the fabric doesn’t seem to be widespread in fashion just yet.

I say yet because Ingeo has appeared on the runway, so hopefully it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way down to us plebeians in the mainstream market.

Pineapple Silk

Image: Ariel Azoff

Image: Ariel Azoff

Do you like piña coladas? Would you wear pineapple silk? People in the Philippines have been wearing it for centuries as part of their traditional formal attire, but it’s just starting to make its way over to the west and into the fashion world.

I first discovered pineapple silk (called piña, after the Spanish word for pineapple) while perusing the website of Canadian sustainable fashion brand Elroy Apparel. The designer makes several pieces of various blends of the stuff, combining the eco-friendly textile with classic silhouettes.

Recently, at the pre-Oscars party hosted by Global Green USA, several celebs including Phantom of the Opera and Shameless star Emmy Rossum were spotted in piña dresses by Philipino designer Oliver Tolentino.

Image: Ariel Azoff

Image: Ariel Azoff

The piña production process is a bit involved, but as a traditional craft it employs many local people. To make it, the fiber is first scraped from the pineapple leaf. It is then washed, dried, waxed, and bound into yarn before being woven into fabric that is silky and translucent. I’ll drink to that!

Last but not least: Stinging Nettles

For thousands of years, the stems of stinging nettle plants have been used to make clothing. The clothes don’t sting, but they are traditionally quite itchy. Napoleon’s armada had nettle uniforms, as did the German armies in both World Wars when the Allies controlled the cotton industry.

Enterprising designers and companies are figuring out how to use the stuff sans-itch, so I see a potential for it to grow in the market. Most notably, there is a Dutch fashion line called Netl that uses the stuff almost exclusively in knitwear and basics.

One British researcher even managed to make it into lingerie. She calls them Nettle Knickers.

Image Ariel Azoff

Image Ariel Azoff

& More

This list just stratches the surface of the sustainable fashion world. There are many, many more sustainable textiles and materials: from the popular organic cotton to solar-powered bikinis, to all kinds of viscose fibers made from trees. For more in-depth information, visit my sustainable fashion blog,



  1. Great story about some little-known fibers that offer sustainable alternatives to fast-fashion materials that deplete the earth and poison our planet. Thought I’d mention another: hemp and Tencel blends marry sustainability with a lovely drape and soft hand. My partner’s US-made line is created entirely using this earth-friendly fabrication. We’ve psoted a story about it at Hemp/Tencel blend

    • beautifulbusiness

      Hey thanks for the comment, do you want to write a short follow up on the info you gave me ? Would be good?
      Best regards Darren

      • The beauty of the hemp/Tencel combination is the fact that neither fiber has environmental downsides. Hemp is grown without using pesticides or artificial fertilizers, and the stalks that remain on the ground after harvest add compost to the soil. Tencel is a rayon-like fiber that’s produced from sustainably grown eucalyptus trees. The fiber is processed in a closed-loop system that virtually eliminates water and ground pollutants. An algae-based purification system is used to treat waste water before it is released back into the environment.. The combination of the two fibers in the weaving process makes for a fabric that resembles a cross between a very soft linen without all the wrinkles, and a slinky rayon, but without all the poisonous chemistry that goes into making traditional cellulose and acetate rayon. At Sympatico, we we use this earth-friendly blend in timeless designs aimed to become core-wardrobe items that outlive the whims of fast-fashion. You’ll find lots more about hemp and Tencel at

    • Ariel Azoff

      meant to post this as a reply:

      Hi Marty! I’m so glad you liked the article! Tencel is an amazing fabric, and I imagine combining it with hemp makes the hemp much softer than usual. What a great blend. I wrote a short post on my blog about Tencel that includes a cool video on the manufacturing process:

  2. Ariel Azoff

    Hi Marty! I’m so glad you liked the article! Tencel is an amazing fabric, and I imagine combining it with hemp makes the hemp much softer than usual. What a great blend. I wrote a short post on my blog about Tencel that includes a cool video on the manufacturing process:

  3. Pingback: 4 Strange & Sustainable Fashion Materials | Ariel Azoff

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