A Tamil Nadu entrepreneur named Gowri Shankar in a village named Kuilapalayam (near Auroville) has developed a unique solution. Founder of Faborg, the 34-year-old uses Calotropis, or milkweed, a wild flowering shrub found in drylands, to produce vegan wool.
Shankar worked in the fashion industry for several years before investigating how plants like hemp and banana could be used to create sustainable fabrics. He has also freelanced for other marketing companies as part of Fabrog, which he founded in 2015.
The idea to make fabric from this shrub came from this phase in 2017.
“I was just casually staring outside the window one afternoon in April and I noticed something. There were about 10 to 15 sunbirds surrounding this bush and they were making a nest using this particular fibre. It really got me thinking if this is natural fibre could be transformed into a textile,” recalls Shankar.
Research conducted by Faborg resulted in the introduction of 'Weganool', an alternative to wool fabrics. Plant-based natural colors are used for dyeing, which is also a part of the extraction process of this fibre.
Having read up on the plant's many properties, Shankar tried to create a zero-waste process. After the fibre was extracted, he found that the remaining plant components could be extracted into a liquid extract.
“There is a difference in a way how one needs to handle this plant. Unlike in the case of hemp or linen, the fibres from the Calotropis plant need to be processed in a way that they retain their strength,” informs Shankar.
After much research, he was able to achieve a perfect woolen fabric after mixing 30% of this fiber with 70% cotton. The process was conducted without involving any animals at all, which was a plus.
The plans for the future are now underway, says Shankar. The company is considering not just scaling up its operations, but also cultivating its own Calotropis plant.