Students Develop Mohair Innovations in Transdisciplinary Collaboration

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Mohair jewelry made by textile design graduate student Lan Ge.

Philadelphia University assistant professor of fashion merchandising and management Marie-Eve Faust wanted to educate her students on sustainability in fashion. Glen Cauffman’s Angora goat farm provides ecologically superior mohair and wool to local companies.

Over the summer, the two joined forces to craft a semester-long collaboration involving PhilaU textile design graduate students, industrial design juniors, and fashion merchandising and management seniors.

Employing PhilaU’s hallmark Nexus Learning approach of merging academic work with real-world experience, the students partnered with Cauffman’s company, Pure American Naturals, to create innovative, sustainable mohair products, displays and business plans.

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Mohair swatches designed for an Olympic luge suit.

Cauffman’s farm provided the students with fleece and mohair yarn, which the students used to make such products as a mosquito net, blanket, baby carrier, luge suit, yoga socks and firefighter jacket linings.

Lan Ge, a textile design graduate student who used the yarn to create jewelry, learned much about the ecological benefits of mohair throughout the project.

“Mohair is very durable and does no harm to the environment,” Ge said. “We can use natural dye instead of chemical dye to diminish the damage to the environment. The benefit of mohair yarn is that it takes dye very easily, which allowed me to give the final jewelry a better aesthetic appeal with vivid colors.”

Mohair, which is the fleece of an Angora goat, is known for its luster and natural insulating qualities. Earlier in the semester, the PhilaU students visited Cauffman’s Millerstown, Pa. farm, which boasts more than 100 Angora goats, to observe shearing day and learn more about the animals.

Since the goats harvest their own feed through grazing, there is little need for mowing with pollution-emitting machinery. Overall, the fossil fuel consumption in this small grazing animal enterprise is minimal.

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Dyed mohair yarn samples.

Cauffman received American Agriculturist’s 2013 Master Farm award for his innovative approach to sustainably raising Angora goats for the production of mohair products. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service also recently recognized the farm’s high standard of conservation and accepted it into the National Conservation Stewardship Program.

For their final presentation, which was critiqued by faculty members, Cauffman and industry professionals, textile design students developed inspiration boards and swatches, fashion merchandising and management students handled the business side of operations by defining target markets and price points for their products, and industrial design students constructed modular retail display systems that easily could be assembled for venues like pop-up shops or trade-show exhibits.

Jacob Wiegmann, an industrial design student, said conceptualizing displays that can adapt to a variety of spaces is increasingly important in today’s retail environment. “There is an ever-growing trend of small pop-up kiosks and shops occurring all over cities,” he said.

The student work is now on display in the lobby of Hayward Hall.

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