Isabella Bruski and Noah Silva met at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology in 2018. After learning about the Biodesign Challenge, an international student competition, they decided to create an animal-free material. Silva investigated fibers made from milkweed plants being used by other innovators as a replacement for goose down. Together they experimented with milkweed to create a fur-like textile. Using linen as a base and integrating milkweed filaments, they created Flora Fur, which won the Stella McCartney Prize for Sustainable Fashion at the Biodesign Challenge Summit in 2019.
This material is not to be confused with products with a similar name (e.g., Flora Faux Fur) available on amazon and ebay. Flora Fur contains no petroleum products and is entirely plant based.
Hollow cellulose fibers from the milkweed plant are hand spun with flax-derived linen to create a bouclé yarn. This milkweed yarn is then hand tied to a linen backing to give the shaggy look of fur. The technology is relatively simple, but it is unclear to what extent it can scale.
Unlike many non-animal fur alternatives that are petroleum based, Flora Fur is plant based and biodegradable. Milkweed and flax plants likely require fewer resources compared to cotton, and certainly fewer than animal-based furs. Flora Fur is likely to receive high marks for animal welfare not only because no animal products are used, but also because growing milkweed creates a food source for endangered migratory monarch butterflies.
Flora Fur is said to be warm, soft, and water resistant. The company is still in the R&D phase, though, and there are no current applications of this material.
Images from Flora Fur.