Milk is good for us, even when it’s worn

German designer upgrades old idea with environmentally friendly fabric

HANOVER, Germany — Wear Milk? Anke Domaske says why not.

The 28-year-old German is the designer of an award-winning new textile made entirely from milk that’s environmentally friendly as well as soothing to people with skin allergies. Called “Qmilch,” it drapes and folds like silk but can be washed and dried like cotton.

The biochemist and fashion designer has so far used the fabric only to make dresses for her own MCC fashion line. But, next year, Ms. Domaske has plans to begin mass producing - and several companies already have expressed interest in using the fabric.

Qmilch - a combination of the Q from quality and the German word for milk - won the innovation award from Germany’s Textile Research Association, which recognized it as a new, sustainable fiber that could revolutionize the clothing industry.

Currently, apparel depends heavily on byproducts from oil or natural resources such as water - used in the thousands of gallons to produce just a bolt of cotton.

“We know that everything that is based on oil has a limit, that materials like cotton that take up a lot of land, water and chemicals are limited, so we need to think about how we produce fabrics and textiles in the future,” said Klaus Jansen, who heads the Textile Research Association.

“She has showed us how this can work.”

Tatyana Berthold, a seamstress for Ms. Domaske’s MCC fashion line, has been cutting and sewing the fabric into dresses for the past year.

“At first, I did not believe that it was made from milk, but when you work with it, you notice that it feels different from normal fabrics,” Ms. Berthold said.

She cast Ms. Domaske a sly sideways glance, then confessed to having privately made a pair of pajamas from a scrap of fabric she had been given.

“When you look it, you can’t see such a big difference, but when you wear it, you feel the difference,” Ms. Berthold said.

Ms. Domaske laughed, confessing that she, too, had sewn herself sleepwear from a sample of the jersey fabric.

The quest for a natural, nonirritating fabric began after Ms. Domaske watched her stepfather suffer through terrible skin irritations while being treated for cancer.

“There are so many people who really suffer just by wearing normal clothing. I wanted to find a way to help them,” she said.

She focused her research on milk protein, or casein. Although textiles made with milk fibers have been around since the 1930s, she said most of them relied heavily on acrylics.

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