Gowri Shankar of Faborg on his vegan cashmere substitute, Weganool


Gowri Shankar is taking the vegan cashmere substitute Weganool to manufacturers like Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss. And he’s roping in farmers for its manufacturing

Earlier this week, the world’s first Vegan Trend Library was unveiled in Los Angeles. That includes an array of designer attire and equipment in plant-derived wool, vegan silk and vegan leather-based, the launch proves but once more that the hunt for options to animal-derived materials goes sturdy. Earlier this 12 months, Japanese designer Yuima Nakazato’s outing on the Paris Trend Week featured boots embroidered with recycled silk yarn and beautiful ‘unit’ attire with cloth processed from plant-derived Brewed Protein. In the meantime, on residence turf, wasteland shrubs are getting used to make vegan wool.

Developed by Faborg, headquartered close to Auroville, Weganool is silently making inroads within the trend business. “The pandemic truly did nicely for us; we’ve seen almost 400% rise in enquiries,” says entrepreneur Gowri Shankar, who sees this intervention (derived from the wild flowering shrub calotropis) as a method to ease the business’s over-dependence on unsustainable practices. Promising a chemical-free and sustainable start-to-finish course of and “no greenwashing”, he provides that folks wanted this day without work in isolation to rethink their life-style selections.

Gowri Shankar (right) and his wife, Ellen

Weganool’s first industrial outing is available in German vegan kidswear model Infantium Victoria’s fall/winter 2021 assortment — additionally showcased at Future Materials Expo in London this 12 months — that options delicate cape attire and hoodies.

Like inexperienced cashmere?

Shankar has over 15 years of expertise within the trend business. He has labored with high-end manufacturers like Chanel, Hermès and Louis Vuitton, courtesy his affiliation as a contract merchandiser for Chennai-based embroidery atelier, Vastrakala. A profile he gave up in 2015 to start out Faborg. “The very first thing I did was analysis totally different crops and their makes use of,” says the 35-year-old, who got here throughout Calotropis Gigantea and Calotropis Procera — ayurvedic crops that develop in circumstances in any other case thought of too barren for agriculture. Shankar, who arrange his first Weganool processing unit in 2017 after two years of analysis, says that somewhat than in search of certifications for natural farming, it made sense for him to change present-day practices and make them sustainable. “I preserve full transparency. I ship them samples to check, images from an electron microscope [to show the hollowness of the fibres], and so forth,” he says, including that he additionally encourages manufacturing unit visits for first-hand verification.

Moreover, hailing from a household of weavers belonging to the Devanga neighborhood, Shankar has seen age-old weaving strategies being changed by means of dangerous chemical substances. Which is why he went on to co-found Pure Dye Home in Tirupur in 2018. He’s additionally engaged on his model of pure repellent, Arka (created from a byproduct of Weganool manufacturing), and has satisfied near 70 farmers in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to make the change from chemical pesticides.

A snapshot from Infantium Victoria’s fall/winter 2021 collection

A snapshot from Infantium Victoria’s fall/winter 2021 assortment  
| Picture Credit score:
Particular Association

“Quite a lot of farmer communities in Brazil, for instance, have proven curiosity in collaborating with us [for Weganool and Arka]. The mannequin will be replicated wherever alongside the equatorial belt, the place you’ve gotten ample daylight,” he elaborates. “The ultimate product is insulative and anti-microbial, and makes use of a mix of 70% natural cotton and 30% Weganool.” Shankar is now in talks with manufacturers like H&M, Marc O’Polo, Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton to develop collections. Whereas this combine is the present favorite, the corporate is experimenting with blends and spinning strategies. What units calotropis fibres aside from different vegan options comparable to coconut or hemp is that it’s hole inside, just like alpaca wool protein fibres. “This makes it nearly as good as cashmere,” he says, including that the yarn will be spun on available cotton spinning tools.

One thing for the farmer

  • Fibre extraction from calotropis leaves behind a concentrated liquid that’s packaged (with different plant extracts) and branded as Arka. “The answer sticks to the leaves of crops, which drives away pests as a substitute of killing them,” explains Shankar, who’s now focussed on advertising and marketing Arka (Faborg plans to supply almost 10,000 litres inside the subsequent three months).
  • A litre of Arka, priced at ₹60 for the farmers (and ₹910 for 5 litres commercially), is adequate for an acre of rice. “Each season, chemical pesticides used to value us wherever between ₹2-₹2.5 lakh. With Arka, it’s about ₹50,000,” says Arasu, an Auroville-based mango and cashew nut farmer, who started utilizing the model this March.

Collabs for the long run

As of in the present day, areas like Europe, Australia and the Americas make for the utmost enquiries fielded at Faborg. “There may be rising curiosity in Europe, Italy specifically, to search out pure options. The client is extra aware in the present day,” says Michele Vencato of Isan Ai Mirai. The Italy-based textile agent — who represents a variety of international fibre and yarn producers and hyperlinks them to potential patrons — related with Faborg final 12 months. Keen to search out cashmere and alpaca wool substitutes, Vencato has taken Weganool to a variety of manufacturers in Europe to include the fabric of their sustainable collections.

The drive to experiment and broaden — from knitted footwear to bringing extra farmlands underneath calotropis cultivation — can be on Shankar’s radar. He has already wrapped up a marketing campaign with cashew farmers in and round Auroville and, with near 30 acres devoted to elevating the plant round Auroville, he plans to introduce multi-crop farming. “Most farmers don’t work in the summertime. As a substitute of sitting idle, they might develop calotropis together with their main crops, and get busy with the gathering and processing of fibres,” he says, including that rising the plant alongside the peripheries might operate as a pure fence for his or her fields.

From milkweed to wool in Auroville

So far as elevating funds, collaborating with others and potential buyers go, Shankar would somewhat fly solo till he will get the precise match. “Such investments normally include riders however for us it’s about how we will take our data to everyone. We’ve patented our processes in order that massive corporations can’t reap the benefits of it,” he says, sharing that at greatest, Faborg will go for crowdfunding. “The precedence isn’t nearly searching for somebody to assist us, however inserting extra religion within the farmers to assist the mission.”

With the calotropis plant out there in loads, Shankar sees no motive why this mannequin shouldn’t choose up tempo, particularly with regards to cultivating barren land. However will a system overhaul take time? “No more than 10 years,” he concludes.

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