Sustainable Yarn: How Alternative is Redefining Fashion with Milk and Soybean Fabrics

If you have ever wondered how the simplest of everyday use materials can be turned into a wearable fashion, you need to know Alternative's story as they use some unusual materials for making fabric for their clothes.

Hitanshu Bhatt
New Update

In the world of everything fast, how can fashion be slow? Well, this question, which lingered in the minds of trend-consuming customers, was addressed by sisters Ayushi Bhaiya and Priyanka Bhaiya when they founded Alternative—an eco-conscious clothing brand in 2021. Alternative is an eco-friendly brand that utilizes natural materials to embrace the trend of slow fashion because the founders believe that fast fashion is founded on the model of overproduction and overconsumption, thereby encouraging quick, inexpensive purchases. Much of these purchases are worn only a handful of times; either the style goes out of trend or the quality is subpar and doesn’t last long. Consequently, much of it ends up sitting in landfills for hundreds or thousands of years or gets incinerated, leading to toxic effects on the environment. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s explore the unusual materials they use to produce sustainable products in their collection.

Co-founders of Alternative - Ayushi Bhaiya and Priyanka Bhaiya 

Alternative had a humble beginning in 2021, leveraging Ayushi’s expertise in fashion design and styling, along with Priyanka’s proficiency in e-commerce and marketing. They aimed to build the business on a simple model. "We aimed to design clothes that feel comfortable inside out and are mindfully created without causing harm to the environment," says Ayushi. This led to the inception of offering an elevated look to the wardrobe with timeless style made from conscious materials.

From the Nature’s Bounty

The materials they source from nature are utilized to make their clothes. Some of the fabrics you can find in their collections include organic cotton, hemp, Ahimsa silk, eucalyptus silk, khadi, aloe vera, and many more. These fabrics incorporate natural ingredients and have a lighter impact on the planet and the people working with them. For instance, organic cotton is grown without pesticides from non-genetically modified seeds and uses 90% less water than conventional cotton. Hemp is considered a carbon-negative raw material, meaning it absorbs more carbon than it produces, and Ahimsa silk has one of the lowest carbon footprints for a fabric. Moreover, its intrinsic properties allow it to remain cool in summer and warm in winter, making it an excellent all-weather fabric.

Clothes made from milk and corn husk?

Milk Fibre

Another interesting material that Alternative uses is milk. Yes, we drink milk, but did you know you can wear it as a fabric? "Milk fabric is made from waste milk by skimming it and then extracting the casein proteins found in milk, making it suitable for spinning into yarn," says the designer. Not only this, they also use corn husk fabric to make their clothes. This fabric is made from the fibers found in corn husks, which are the outer layer of the corn cob typically discarded as waste after removing the corn kernels. Corn husk fabric is a man-made fabric produced by fermenting plant sugar without the use of petrochemicals. Once the fibers are extracted from the husks, they are spun into yarn that can be further woven or knitted into fabric. The list goes on as they make fabrics from orange peel, soybean, and lotus silk.

Weaving of Lotus Silk

While orange fiber is made from discarded peels, cellulose is extracted from the peels and then spun into yarn. The process of making soy fabric involves extracting protein from soybean hulls, thereby transforming a waste product into a fine fabric with minimal processing. Lotus silk is produced using fibers from the lotus stem. The process of making it is extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming, involving hand-harvesting the lotus plant's stem, separating the fibers from the plant's outer layers, and hand-spinning the fibers into thread. The resulting thread is then woven or knitted into fabric.

Alternative is known for its unusual use of sustainable materials, but its commitment to sustainability extends beyond materials to the people behind them. By collaborating with local communities across India for sourcing, weaving, and dyeing fabrics, the brand not only supports traditional crafts but also empowers women and uplifts livelihoods. The co-founders believe, "Contributing to a better planet is a collective effort that requires action from everyone – companies, government, and the people. As brands and consumers, we need to educate ourselves and others on sustainability, ask questions and demand transparency, support sustainable companies financially, and most importantly, take action in everyday living. It can be as simple as reducing plastic usage or buying only what you need instead of hoarding because it's cheap, educating others around you, and encouraging them to be sustainable as well."

Clothes made from milk eco-conscious clothing brand slow fashion Ahimsa silk milk fabric soya fabric Lotus Silk orange fibre corn husk fabric