“I thought it must be possible to make a fabric that is completely organic,” Ms. Domaske said.
After two years of trial and error, working with a research lab, Ms. Domaske and her team of six finally landed on a process of reducing milk to a protein powder that is then boiled and pressed into strands that can be woven into a fabric.
The strands, she said, can be spun rougher for a heavier texture, or shiny smooth, to create a soft jersey that drapes and feels like silk.
She uses only organic milk that cannot be consumed because it has failed Germany’s strict quality standards.
Ms. Domaske conceded that at $28 per 8 ounces, her fabric costs more to produce than even organic cotton, which is made for about 40 percent less. But she hopes local production will keep down transport costs and reduce the overall price.
She also notes that only a half-gallon of water is needed to produce 2 pounds of fabric, or enough to make several standard dresses. By comparison, making the same amount of cotton requires more than 2,600 gallons of water.
Lynda Grose, a consultant and associate professor at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, Calif., who specializes in ecologically responsible design, noted that the fashion industry is dependent on the idea of disposal, of people always wanting new designs.
“There is a tremendous amount of waste in the fashion world,” Ms. Grose said. She noted that by rethinking how such waste can be used will help make the fashion and textile industries more ecologically friendly.
German industry has been impressed by Ms. Domaske’s innovation.
The designer, who works from a loft beside the railway in the central German city of Hanover, already has received queries from automobile makers that see a potential for seat covers, and members of the medical and hospitality industries interested in a hypoallergenic material for hospitals and hotel beds.
“The German textile industry can only survive against the competition if it comes up with innovative, new products,” Mr. Jansen said. “Ms. Domaske has done this in taking a raw material and processing it to create a new thread that can be sold to other companies to create other products. That is very unique.”