Nylon – material that killed its inventor

Nylon – material that killed its inventor

While coming up with the descriptions for our new Make a Wish lingerie series, we kept wondering what phrase would suit it best. In the end we went for “pleasant to the touch” because it was the feature that appeared in our ideas the most often. Where does that feeling come from and what are some other advantages of nylon – the main material of the series that stole your hearts in such a short time? Let us tell you all about it. There will be a little bit of history, trivia and other information about nylon – we’re sure some of them will surprise you!

 

So let’s start from the beginning, which, as often happens, was… in China. It was there that the secret of the production of silk – an exclusive material made thanks to silkworm farms – was discovered over 5,000 years ago. To say that silk made a splash is like saying nothing. To explain to you how popular, desirable and famous this material was, let us mention that the silk production process was a state secret in China at that time, and those who tried to give it away were punished with death. Legends have it that the production secret, along with thousands of silkworm eggs, was stolen from China by two brave monks. They were said to have put the eggs inside their walking sticks and in this way – leaning on these sticks during their journey – took the secret to Byzantium.


Although the secret was given away and silkworms kept spreading, the production of silk was still giving other countries sleepless nights. It was not only veiled in mystery but above all: very expensive. People feverishly looked for cheaper and faster substitutes that would make it possible to create a similar fiber: delicate, yet strong, with a distinctive, beautiful gloss. At that time, artificial silk made from cellulose was already known, but it couldn’t satisfy the growing appetite in many countries.

 

With the development of technology, people started looking for new materials that could replace expensive and often nondurable natural resources, and meet the growing and ever-changing needs. This is how the story of one of the most famous materials begins. The material that not only led to fights in store lines, but also caused the tragic death of its own inventor.

A fiber trailing after the chemist

The American company DuPont, 1930s – that’s where the works on the material that was supposed to be a cheaper and more durable equivalent of the expensive silk began. The DuPont entrepreneur wanted to invent a new groundbreaking fiber so much that he invested as much as $40 million in research and works, which at that time sounded even crazier than now. The chemists employed by DuPont worked day and night to show the world a new material with unparalleled properties as soon as possible. One of those chemists was Wallace Carothers, working with Elmer K. Bolton. After several years of hard and daunting work, they finally managed to create an elastic and durable polyamide fiber, which was actually discovered by accident. Reports from that day say that Julian Hill – one of the chemists from Carother’s team –  was already so tired and discouraged by the lack of success that he began to mindlessly stir the substance in a glass flask. After a few movements of the rod he noticed that the substance behaved differently than the previous one: it didn’t fall away, only trailed after the rod, creating a delicate, but at the same time strong thread. Hill was so excited about the properties of the newly created material that he ran out of the laboratory, and the fiber persistently followed him down all corridors, being the first sample of the groundbreaking fiber: nylon.

Toothbrushes and stockings

When everybody was sure that the new fiber could be used to produce an elastic thread, everything happened very quickly. In 1938, at a conference on new technologies, the vice president of DuPont officially announced the invention of a new material – nylon. Today, probably no one is thinking about the name, but then its meaning was almost symbolic. The word nylon is a combination of the names of two cities – New York and London, because both the Americans and the English worked on how to produce this material.

A year later, a finished product was presented, and it was supposed to soon conquer the market. The first products created using nylon were toothbrushes, but it was a completely different thing that captured people’s interest – of course, these were stockings, then known as “nylons”. They sold out at a number of four million pairs in just four days after the premiere! This day has gone down in the history of fashion as the “Nylon Day.” Reports say that there were even quarrels and fights between people standing in lines. Women went crazy about the new stockings, which looked great on their legs, and were more durable and cheaper to make than the silk stockings known so far. To prove their durability, the newsreels showed stockings being scratched with a fork or even tied to moving cars or anvils!

Everything changed during World War II – at that time nylon was mainly used for making parachutes. Nylon stockings became a commodity in short supply, and women missed them to such an extent that they painted a long, black line imitating the seam of stockings on the back of their legs.

The burden of fame

However, before stockings started to be sold in full flow, Wallace Carothers, suffering from the bipolar disorder, committed suicide in 1937 by drinking the potassium cyanide solution. Apparently, it was difficult for him to accept the thought that his material would be used mainly to make nylons, and that he would go down in history not as an outstanding chemist, but as the inventor of stockings. Little did he know how huge a success the newly-made material would be – and in how many branches of industry it would be useful, or even irreplaceable.

Nylon – what is it?

Nylon belongs to the group of polyamides. Thanks to its properties it is still very popular in process of time. It is used not only for the production of everyday items, such as umbrellas or carpets, but also in the clothing industry. It is lightweight, pleasant to the touch, durable, wrinkle-resistant and quick-drying. All this makes nylon indispensable when making swimwear, sportswear, jackets and lingerie. Apart from all the above-mentioned accessories and items, nylon is also included in winter jackets, basketball balls or even guitar strings. The material with so many properties is essential in many industry branches, not just in the lingerie-making, although it has a special role here.

 

Because of all this we have also given in to the magic of the legendary nylon. Making lingerie in which nylon would play a major part has long been one of our designer’s dreams, but finding the perfect material – combining retro history with a modern, feminine design turned out to be a huge challenge. For over a year, we’ve been knocking on the doors of manufacturers and wholesalers all over Poland, looking for a delicate, shimmery mesh that you can now see in our Make a Wish sets. Why was nylon so important to us? Because its unique structure ensures delicacy and comfort, and at the same time is so durable that it perfectly shapes the bust. Bras and panties made of nylon are lightweight and sensual, with silky nylon threads gently shimmering in the sun, creating a subtle background for velvety, flocked stars.

 

And if we add to this the turbulent history of nylon, which, not so long ago was the object of desire and many obsessions, we get a truly timeless combination, worth a closer look. If you want to try the advantages of this material yourself – and move for a moment into the times of the DuPont master, be sure to have a look at the Make a Wish set made of nylon decorated with convex, black stars – maybe it will be your love too?

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