Twenty-eight-year-old Anke Domaske was born in Moscow and lived in East Germany till she was seven. Her business instinct surfaced at the ten-der age of three, when she got the idea of selling cherry blossom to earn some money. A business woman was born! She smiles, looking back on her youth:”I was cute back then, I had an enqui-ring mind and I wanted to sell things. I learned a lot from my mother. She was an independent type - an entrepreneur - too.”The love of fashion and clothes-making goes back a long way in her fami-ly. “I grew up in an atmosphere where making clothes was taken for granted; that was the cultu-re in East Germany. You couldn’t just step into a shop and buy the clothes you wanted - the sys-tem did not allow that - so you made your own. It all started with my great-grandmother. She was a fashion designer and a seamstress. “My grand-mother was very good at drawing and sewing too, and so was my mother. They made all the clothes for the family themselves. I learned to design clo-thes and draw at a very young age. I discussed everything with my mother. I was full of creative ideas, and I started sewing early. I sewed every-thing I could lay my hands on - cushions, clothes, table-cloths, the lot. I had a good feel for materi-als; it didn’t take me long to see what material a given piece of clothing was made from, and how. Skirts, jackets….. I made them up, and I could see in my mind’s eye what they would look like.”
Anke Domaske, Hanover, Germany.
Fashion designer, microbiologist, innovator, with a real wish to help others.
Anke Domaske is only 28, but she already owns two companies. She started up her own fashion label, Chi Chi, in 2003 when she was 19. In 2011 she founded the milk fibre production company Qmilk. Today, little more than a year later, Qmilk is world famous for the organic milk fibre it turns out - a natural product deve-loped by her team. After 2 years of experimentation, Qmilk has achieved what no other textile company or fashion house in the world has managed to do before: produce a natural ecofibre from the milk protein ca-sein, which she uses to make clothing (women’s fas-hion), car upholstery and anti-allergenic fabrics, with a wide range of applications (high-quality bed linen, wound dressings for use in hospitals, etc.). People ha-ve made milk-based fibres before, but they always contained harmful chemicals derived from the produc-tion process, as do most other fibres. Qmilk produced a completely natural process from sour milk, that would be thrown away if it were not used for this pur-pose. Qmilk has become an amazing success thanks to its silky texture and anti-allergenic properties.
Qmilk for sensitive skins
The smooth surface of Qmilk fibres avoids skin irritation, so clothes made using these fibres feel good to wear. Microscopic comparison of Qmilk, wool and cotton fibres shows that Qmilk fibres are very smooth, while wool is scaly and cotton fibres also have significant surface irregularities. More and more people suffer from sensitive skins nowadays. In particular, an increase in allergies leads to much more demand for natural fibres. Qmilk is the natural alternative to synthetic fibres, and seems set for a promising future in the tex-tiles industry.
A natural milk fibre that’s kind to the skin - a world success
Anke Domaske is amazed by the enormous popularity of her pro-duct. International fashion houses, textile companies, car manu-facturers and the medical world are all knocking on Qmilk’s door: they all want to buy the innovative milk fibre from her. E-mails and phone calls are pouring in from all corners of the world, with requests from renowned international enterprises - and from pri-vate individuals too - who want her to make an endless variety of products for them, ranging from anti-allergenic wound dressings to special items of clothing. The milk fibre has only been used to make women’s fashion so far, but men’s fashion is on the hori-zon: countless men are impatient to wear one of the milk-fibre creations. The first collection of milk fashion for men is already on the drawing-board. A new production hall next to her design stu-dio in Hanover will be starting up soon. The laboratory near Bre-men that has been producing the milk fibre is no longer able to cope with the demand. A new production machine will be instal-led that will be able to turn out the huge amounts of milk fibre (about 560 tons per annum) required by her customers. Since 2011, Anke Domaske no longer sells just women’s fashion. She also delivers her natural milk fibre to other companiesfor further processing, and a men’s fashion range is also on the way.
|Anke Domaske at work in her laboratory in Hanover.|
The Devil is in the details
Milk fibres have been known since the 1930s, but there have been no further developments in this field since the Se-cond World War. Anke Domaske takes up her story: “We became interested, and have developed a completely new fibre, an eco fibre, based on casein from sour milk. The production process that turned out the old milk fibres involved the use of harmful chemi- cals. These fibres had been quite popular for a while, but then the industry lost interest. When we heard about them, we were struck by the possibi lites. We got the idea of making a new type of milk fibre by a natural production process, using organic cow’s milk that was no longer fit for con sumption as our raw material. It proved to be no easy matter to develop the kind of production pro cess, that we had in mind, which would turn out a natural fibre with the desiredproperties.Still, we managed to do it after only 2 years of experimen tation, which is really a very short time in this line of business. We encountered lots of problems along the way - the Devil is in the details, as the say!
The low level of harmful chemical compounds used in the production of Qmilk fibres reduces the envi-ronment footprint of the produc-tion process. Another important benefit is that the new fibre is much more water-efficient than current mass-produced clothing. It takes less than 2 litres of water to make 1 kg of Qmilk fabric, as compared with more than 10,000 litres of water for the same weight of cotton material.
Helping other people
Anke Domaske went on, “It was a difficult pro-cess with a steep learning curve. After all, I did not start off as a textile fibre manufacturer: I had studied microbiology, which has nothing to do with textiles and now I’ve got big global companies on the phone, wanting to buy milk fibres. It’s great that we made this thing work. Things are moving very quickly at the moment. I love begin able to turn my hobbies, science and fashion, into my work. It means working 100 hours a week, but it’s no drudgery, just pure fun. And it’s very satisfying being able to do something that helps people by making clo-thes and fabrics that are kind to the skin, that breathe, and are environmentally friendly. Qmilk has already won 5 awards in Germany and also the Sustainatopia Award in Miami. That’s quite an honour, as good as winning an Oscar.”
Anke Domaske has her heroes in the fashion world too. “I love Christian Dior, he was my idol. I adored his dresses, they were amazing. He had so many ideas, so many patterns...A dress was not just a dress for him, it was fanciful, sexy, ama-zing. He really loved making women beautiful. Of course I admire Coco Chanel, she always went her own way.”
Anke Domaske won 2 awards as a young researcher, even befo-re she started her university stu-dies. She was fascinated by mi-crobiology, and admired the work successful scientists like Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch had done to benefit humanity. “I wanted to help people too, but I never dreamed that I would do it through the medium of clothing.”
The automotive industry is con-stantly on the look-out for dura-ble, anti-allergenic materials. Qmilk fabrics have been enthusi-astically greeted as an ans-wer to their prayers. Qmilk can be modi-fied to yield a wide range of high-tech fibres. Their strength and resistance to various fuels makes them ideally suited to many dif-ferent applications in the automo-tive field.
Qmilk fibres lend themselves to a wide range of different applications in the home – es-pecially in the bedroom. They made excellent mattress coverings, underlays, bed-linen (sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers) and nightwear.
The outstanding moisture management properties of Qmilk fibres ensure healthy sleep, and Qmilk mattress filling material is the ideal foundation for a healthy, regenerative night’s rest. The antibacterial properties of the fibre make a further contribution in this direction.
The impressive properties of Qmilk fabrics have received a hearty welcome in the healthcare field. In particular their antibacterial effect and the ab-sence of harmful chemicals such as pesticides – from which natural fibres such as cotton and even wool increasingly suffer nowadays – are invalu-able for such applications as medical dressings.
Good for the environment
The low level of harmful chemical compounds used in the production of Qmilk fibres reduces the environment footprint of the production proc-ess. Another important benefit is that the new fibre is much more water-efficient than current mass-produced clothing. It takes less than 2 li-tres of water to make 1 kg of Qmilk fabric, as compared with more than 10,000 litres of water for the same weight of cotton material.