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Pulling on the cigarette style

Chili – Mantis: an unusual name for an unusual project. Run by Chilean designer Alexandra Guerrero, the experiment had her gathering and cleansing waste cigarette stubs to create a unique fashion line. ‘Each Mantis garment contains 10% purified cigarette butts and 90% wool,’ notes Guerrero.

Cigarettes are notorious as the ‘most littered’ type of waste, with more than 5 trillion spent cigarettes tossed aside every year. Yet the Chilean designer saw a material worth transforming and dedicated herself to turning the countless stray stubs left all over the country’s capital Santiago into wearable and colourful textiles.

Guerrero succeeded in her unlikely mission by coming up with a method of mixing the tissue of the cigarette filter with natural wool for knitting into ponchos, sweaters, dresses and various accessories – proof that there is more than one way to pull on a cigarette.

‘In this project, we collect and purify the filters of cigarette butts by soaking them in alcohol for 24 hours, resulting in 95% purification of the material – cellulose acetate,’ the designer explains. Before the butts are dyed and hand-spun with wool, they also undergo an elaborate treatment process involving autoclave sterilisation, rinsing, drying and shredding. The liquid produced is currently being tested for use as a biological insecticide.

Through this work, Guerrero hopes to prove that it is possible to recycle virtually anything – ‘even if it is so small’.

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