Hair Highway is a contemporary take on the ancient Silk Road which transported not only silk but also technologies, aesthetics and ideas between East and West. Investigating the global hair industry in the Shandong province of China, Studio Swine followed the journey of the material from the people who sell their hair through to the hair merchants, markets and factories. The project documents this journey in a film and a collection of highly decorative objects.
Text and images © Studio Swine
China is both the largest importer of tropical hardwood and the biggest exporter of human hair. By combining hair with a natural resin, Studio Swine has created a composite material that provides a sustainable alternative to the planet’s diminishing natural resources with an aesthetic that evokes the palettes of tortoiseshell and a grain resembling that of polished horn or exotic hardwoods. The result is a unique collection of exquisite objects inspired by the 1930’s Shanghai-deco style.
As the world’s population rises, human hair is one natural resource that is increasing. Asian hair regenerates the fastest, growing 16 times more rapidly than tropical hardwoods; it is also incredibly strong – a single strand can take up to 100 grams. 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.