Is there anything more disgusting than a pile of cigarette butts on the pavement? Well, Chilean fashion designer Alexandra Guerrero and her design company Mantis, has come up with a novel use for the estimated 4.3 trillion cigarette butts that are discarded each year around the globe.
Alexandra Guerrero takes the discarded cigarette butts and turns them into stylish clothing. What started as a school project may soon end up with a fashionable solution to the plague of unwanted cigarette butts filing ashtrays, littering streets and ending up in the landfills. We caught up with the innovative designer to ask a few questions about her recycled cigarette butt haute couture clothing.
Why did you make the cigarette clothing?
It began as an idea for my thesis project as a fashion designer, we always wanted to do sustainable design but we didn't want to do something that had already been done, so we started thinking of a waste problem that went unnoticed and then we thought of the cigarette butts. After seeing the positive results and interest from people, we are now thinking of this project as a business possibility.
How is the clothing made?
After cleaning the cigarettes butts, they are dyed in different colors, then I separate the cigarette fibers and finally they are spun with natural sheep wool. At the end, every garment has 10% material from cigarette butts and 90% sheep wool. We expect to increase this percentage in the future with better financing.
How are the cigarettes cleaned for the clothing?
The purification process begins with the cigarette butts going through autoclaves (a pressurized sanitation process). They are then washed in a solvent; they go through the autoclave again, are rinsed and dried, and, finally, are shredded to create a wool-like material. The resulting liquid byproduct is also being donated to be tested as a biological insecticide for plant pest control.
Where do you get the cigarettes?
For now, we collect cigarettes from the streets or with the help of our smoker friends. But we expect to create a major campaign where we can get cigarette butts from pubs, restaurants or other places where there are smokers.
Is the clothing durable?
The clothing is as strong as spun wool.... and it will last as long as any other hand-woven clothing item.
Is this something you plan to mass-produce or is it haute couture?
Every garment is unique and handmade. So it's haute couture, we want our client to have a special link with the garment they choose.
We want to mass produce the Mantis philosophy and business, but while always retaining the exclusivity of every garment.
How many cigarette-clothing items have you made?
I have made about 5 items (dress, hat, poncho, soaps and a sweater) and collected about five thousand cigarette butts to make them.
Is this an environmental project?
This is a sustainable design project, we want to dress people well and protect the environment with style.
How can people buy your clothing and get in touch with you?