Winter brings with it the imagery of hot beverages and wool or cashmere which are the selling products by big companies in the season. In recent years, there has been a furore over the allegedly inhuman ways of sheep-shearing, thus embroiling the fashion industry in further accusations of environmental ignorance. In a country like India, wool or cashmere is ill-afforded by a majority of the population.
Gowri Shankar was born in a family of traditional weavers in Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvanamalai District and it was his intrinsic passion for an environmental solution that created Wegan Wool. Shankar’s company Faborg works closely with local women and the wild-growing Calotropis Plant to obtain fibres that are as good as wool, but a 100% vegan. The plant-based, zero waste material is 100% eco-friendly and empowers rural communities.
The Calotropis Giganta and the Calotropis Procers are Ayurvedic plants that grow abundantly throughout India. Its medicinal qualities have helped several generations in Ayurveda and its wild healing qualities have helped nurture and has treated plants and crops in farming. The idea struck when Shankar saw a group of sunbirds taking fibres from the plant to weave their nests. After much research and development, the fibre was deemed a viable alternative to wool.
The Calotropis plants do not require water, attention or pesticides and are found in abundance in dry areas. Its pioneer qualities include reviving biodiversity, the ecosystem and enabling regrowth of forest canopies. A perennial plant, it requires no-replanting or irrigation and regrows six-months after harvest. The plant comes with two hollow cellulose fibres that have wool-like characteristics. The Pod fibre is extremely soft and light-weight. Their hollowness allows them to fly away from the plant with the heavy seeds like an air-balloon. This fibre offers a cashmere-like luxury because of its softness and natural shine, also ensuring thermal-regulating properties in the material.
The stem fibres are tough and impossible to break with the hand and its functions include carrying and distributing the acidic sap to the pods and leaves. The fibres are processed with care and love by women of the local rural communities.
Process: The process is wild and free of any toxins or cruelty, handpicked and hand processed by their female workforce. The ginning process includes removing all the seeds after which it is processed and then sun bleached. The carefully extracted calotropis fibres which are 10-20 microns are then mixed with 70% of rain-fed cotton and spun to create the delicate WegaNool. The yarn can be customised for a variety of fabrics and are fine-tuned to 30 counts. Their natural dyes can last for at least 10-15 cycles of washing.
It can be cultivated on dry land and is not on the menu of grazing animals. Multi-cropping it with drought-resistant trees could increase farmers' earnings in three years. The best part is that it requires less energy input with regard to irrigation, care and harvest. It also empowers soil quality, increases afforestation and enriches the ecosystem
The Calotropis Plant mixed with other natural herbs concocted a natural fertiliser and insect repellent. It enables maximum yield for organic farmers with excellent input that betters both the immunity and cell division of the plants. Its effective results can also be used to manage pests and diseases in crops. One of its many talents include repelling mosquitoes, improving soil structure and stimulating beneficial organisms deep inside the soil.
Another natural wonder of Faborg is its use of 100% raw and authentic Indian natural dyes to colour the textiles. The liquid and solid residues of these raw materials are used for organic farming purposes.