If you’re struggling for an original Christmas present – how about a wooden dress?
At a recent state gala, Finland’s first lady wore a dress made from the country’s birch trees.
But there was nothing frivolous about why she chose the dress – she wore it to support a new technology which could reduce the environmental damage caused by the fashion industry.
The dress worn by Jenni Haukio, a poet and wife of the president, was created by academics at Finland’s Aalto University using a new sustainable technology called Ioncell.
The academics say the process is more environmentally-friendly than cotton and synthetic fibres and makes use of wood that would otherwise be wasted.
In eastern Finland’s forests, there is a thinning process of removing some trees to make room for others to grow – and these smaller birch trees are now becoming the source for clothing.
Off the peg
This process creates textile fibres from materials like wood, recycled newspaper, cardboard and old cotton textiles, which can be turned into dresses, scarves, jackets and even iPad cases.
Prof Pirjo Kaariainen of Aalto University is pleased with the feedback on the dress.
“It was designed by a young fashion and design student here at Aalto who wanted to give respect to Finnish nature and to the country’s tradition of strong women.”
Prof Kaariainen says the fibre works well for clothing because it is “soft to touch, it has a lovely sheen and falls beautifully”.
There are growing calls for the fashion industry to urgently reduce its damaging effects on the environment.
The industry causes 10% of global carbon emissions and uses nearly 70 million barrels of oil each year to make polyester fibres, which can take more than 200 years to decompose.
Plastic microfibres from synthetic clothing are part of the problem of human-made materials that wash up along ocean shores.