Paper No. 9 are a New York-based startup that might just have the answer--or at least part of it. They've developed a process that turns paper into a sewable, hard-wearing fabric. We're not talking about the coated paper gowns with the embarrasing gap at the back that you see in hospital. This stuff is designed to last, and crafted to be luxurious.
Like many innovations, this new paper fabric has its roots in the past. More specifically, in 19th century Japan, where artisans developed kinkarakawakami, a wallpaper designed to mimic the look and feel of gilded leather. It's displayed, for example in some of the dining halls at Buckingham Palace.
Paper No. 9's material is free from complex polymers, and completely natural. It can be used in a wide range of applications, from clothing to interior design, and clients are asking for new ways to use it, from stationary to bags. This stuff is incredibly versatile, and can be tweaked to suit any use. It's available in different weights, transparencies and finishes. It's water-resistant, animal and toxin-free, created without the use of bleaches or stripping agents, and with minimal waste.
Sounds like a dream, right? Well, as with any dream, there's a wake-up call. The heavy artisinal focus of Paper No. 9's product range tells a story by itself. It's sold by the square foot. At the moment, they're simply too small to ramp up production to the mass market, and the product would suffer if they did. They remain exclusive, catering to a bespoke market and limited-edition production runs. There's no reason this can't change, of course. If the interest is there and the costs come down, I think there's room for Paper No. 9 in a world without cotton--a world where a mix of eco-friendly fabrics from PET to nettle to hemp are the norm. Paper No. 9 may not be the only answer to the stranglehold cotton has on the fashion industry, but it can certainly be part of the solution.
For more, check out the website.
Paper No. 9