London-based design studio SWINE has crafted an exquisite, sustainable collection of décor items made of human hair and natural resin.
Forward-thinking and amusingly named design studio SWINE (Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers), investigates the evolving role of design in today’s, and even tomorrow’s worlds. Founded by architect Azusa Murakami and artist Alexander Groves, SWINE harbors a very particular interest in luxury—demand for high-end goods, though perhaps slowing, isn’t disappearing, and the harsh reality is that global resources are dwindling as global population continues to grow. Make no mistake, Murakami and Groves don’t want you giving up your pretty things, but are instead inviting the public to keep an open mind as to just what these luxury items should be made of.
Enter Hair Highway: an exploration of creating and crafting with a composite material, made by combining human hair and natural resin, and culminating in an exquisite décor collection—vases, ornamental boxes, combs (meaning, yes, you can groom your hair with more hair), and more. A video component by director Juriaan Booij follows the fascinating journey of these strands processed into luxury goods, beginning in the Chinese province of Shandong, home to the world’s largest hair market. Men with cigarettes dangling from their mouths sift through piles of long plaits and lush ponytails, factory workers brush and process mounds of hair until they’re sleek and uniform, craftsmen pour the amber-hued resin over the hair to create hard blocks which are whittled and shaved into the beautiful end results. The hair/resin composite material boasts a distinct tortoiseshell-like tint with a grain quite similar to that of exotic hardwoods. To that point, China is the largest importer of tropical hardwood, and the largest exporter of human hair.
“Trade has the ability to not only transport products but also values and perceptions,” the London-based duo said in their project statement. They explain Hair Highway as a modern take on the historical Silk Road due to the ancient trade routes’ role in the exchange of goods, culture, and innovation between the East and West.
The collection, which harkens back to 1930s Shanghai-deco style, utilized Asian hair specifically for its fast regeneration—16 times quicker than tropical hardwoods—and its strength. SWINE’s Hair Highway aims to reflect on China’s relationship in the grander, global scheme, and provoke consideration of inventive, sustainable materials in the design realm.