Through his company Faborg, the 34-year-old has invented vegan wool from a wild dry-land shrub called Calotropis plant (commonly known as milkweed). “In search of bigger challenges, I left the family business and started my career as an assistant merchandiser at a high fashion embroidery company in Chennai and soon was handling several exclusive clients. The real adventure began when I established Faborg as a freelance company and got my first inquiry about hemp fabric. One day, while looking out of the window, I saw Calotropis plant, the most common weed growing around my home. My inquisitive mind raised a question: “How come there are so many sunbirds around this plant?”. I stepped out of the house and started checking out the fibres. A few months later, we developed vegan wool, a vegan alternative for wool fabrics, that strive for sustainability at every stage of their life cycle — from production and processing to ultimate disposal,” says Gowri Shankar.
He says that because of their softness and natural shine, fabrics made from these fibres have a very luxurious feel and are often compared with cashmere. “The plant provides unique hollow cellulose fibres — a sustainable alternative to both mass-produced wool and polluting synthetic materials. Calotropis Gigantea and Calotropis Procera are Ayurvedic plants that grow abundantly all over India. The unique characteristics of Calotropis plants are: for the growth, it does not need water, attention, or pesticides. It is a pioneer plant that revives biodiversity and ecosystem and enables forest canopy to grow back. It grows back in six months after harvesting — gives a yield two times per year. It is an age-old fertiliser, fungicide and pest-repellent that farmers have been using for ages,” shares the entrepreneur.
Hundreds of years ago, before the arrival of petrochemical fertilisers and pesticides, Calotropis was a highly valued plant widely used by farmers all over the country. Traces of old literature supporting this are still accessible and it is backed up by many researchers from India. “Concentrated residue from fiber extraction is converted into highly efficient natural fertiliser and insect repellent for the local farmers called Arka. It has an added advantage to any other multi-purpose bio solution in the market today — it has a proven track record of long-lasting effects in repelling mosquitoes. Since Arka is completely organic, produced without the use of chemicals, it greatly improves the soil structure and stimulates the growth of beneficial organisms in the soil. The craft we are performing died many centuries ago, so we had to re-invent the fibre manufacturing to fit in scalable spinning methods by using our knowledge in the textile industry,” he adds.