Decorative designs made out of human hair

London-based Studio Swine uncovers China’s hair trade industry with a 1930s décor collection and a short documentary.

Hair Highway is a documentary and a collection of decorative objects made out of hair that explore the unique culture surrounding the hair industry in Shandong, China – the world’s biggest exporter of human hair. The project was created by Anglo-Japanese design duo, Studio Swine (Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers) and inspired by their time spent in the Chinese province.

The Hair Highway collection, which features a range of ornate items from hair combs and ointment vessels to a dressing table and trinket boxes, is defined by its unusual fabrication. The studio created the substance by combining natural resin with human hair and the result was a sustainable material that looks a lot like tortoise shell but with its own unique grain and patterning.

“As the world’s population rises, human hair is one natural resource that is increasing,” says Studio Swine. “Asian hair regenerates the fastest” and “it is also incredibly strong – a single strand can take up to 100 grams.”

The accompanying Hair Highway film serves as narrative backdrop to the project, and uncovers the inner workings of the trade from the people who give up their hair to the merchants who sell it.

For Studio Swine, “Hair Highway reflects on China’s relationship with the rest of the world, while exploring the idea that trade has the ability to not only transport products but also values and perceptions.”