A fruitful future for the textile industry
Along with the rise in demand for vegan alternatives and for low-priced fast fashion goods in the market, synthetic materials were increasingly used for handbags and accessories. While these fast fashion items often end up in our landfills to slowly degrade ( petrochemical based materials can take up to 1000 years to degrade), only recently have we seen a more diverse material landscape, with various bio materials offering viable alternatives to the synthetic fabrics that the majority of bags and accessories are made of today.
After exploring and researching more about Infinna, the cotton-like material that is completely made out of recycled old textile (if you want to know more, check out our previous blog post!), we have come across a few other materials that are leading the way to a more sustainable model for the Fashion Industry. With these fruit fibres, fashion and science are slowly coming together in order to create the next generation of sustainable textiles.
Bananatex, for example, is the world’s first durable, technical fabric made solely from the naturally grown Abacá banana plants. These plants are cultivated in the Philippine highlands within a natural ecosystem and are fully self-sufficient, which means they don’t require any pesticides, fertilisers or extra water. This material is offering the industry a truly circular alternative to the synthetic fabrics that dominate the market today. As the fabric is made out of fruit fibres, it is not only completely biodegradable but also contributes to reforestation in needed areas of the country, answering questions of environmental, economic and social sustainability.
Qwstion, is a Swiss brand and the first company to use Bananatex for their bags collection.
Orange Fibre is another fully biodegradable material for the future. First created in Italy in 2014, the material uses part of the 700,000 tons of orange peel that goes to waste every year post juice extraction. Cellulose is extracted from discarded orange skins and the resulting product is a lightweight silk-like sustainable fabric that can be made naturally opaque or shiny to meet the needs of their buyers.
Ferragamo was the first luxury brand to collaborate with Orange Fibre, launching a capsule collection to celebrate the 47th edition of Earth Day. The designs and patterns are closely intertwined with the fabric itself, inspired by southern Italy and its abundance of citrus groves.
More recently, some Mexican engineers have created a bio-material made from mango waste for use in the shoes and textile industries. The eco-friendly textile is sourced from organic waste such as mango seeds and skins, as well as fruit waste from supermarkets. Known as Celium, the mango fabric is a bio-textile grown from bacterial cellulose, the same way it is done for Orange Fibre and can be used as a leather alternative.
The process entails brewing fruit scraps into bio-leather using bacteria found in mango and strawberry residues, which eat the scraps and assemble a matrix that is very similar to leather in terms of performance, look, feel and even smell. The production process of this bio-textile seems to be completely sustainable as the material is carbon neutral, grows 5% faster than animal leather with 10% of the water footprint.
We’ve really noticed a rise in sustainable smaller brands using Celium for their bag, shoes or accessories collections such as US-based accessories brand Allegorie, or UK-based brand Luxtra London.
Coir coconut fibre is yet another fully biodegradable material for the future of the industry It is a completely natural fibre obtained from coconut husk, an abundant by-product of coconut farming. It is the fibrous material found between the wiry outer coat and the hard internal shell and is one of the latest eco-friendly textile alternatives, since it comes from a renewable source and is durable, sun-resistant and naturally biodegradable. This material is strong enough to be used for rope, rugs, mattresses, and even in some brushes, but can also be used in the clothing and accessories industry.
Prior to this, cotton was the most widespread non-food crop and used for half of all textiles production. Although the fabric is biodegradable, the level of production and its water consumption wasn’t going to be for long. In view of the growing demand for fashion, these fruit fibres are really changing the textile game for good, as we’re finally seeing big and small brands starting to make the most of what’s already been wasted by other industries, turning it into something beautiful and fully biodegradable.
There is a pattern that connects many of these innovations: they incorporate plants or food waste in their composition. There is often a great disconnect between appearances and how sustainable these innovative materials actually are, as most of the plant-based or vegan leather alternatives out there are still using toxic chemicals for the colour, touch and feel finishes. According to the lengthy research conducted by FILK Freiberg Institute some of the leather alternatives contained traces of explicitly banned chemicals, in particular Desserto (Cactus Leather), Appleskin and Piñatex, the group of plastic-coated textile leathers. One of the poorest scoring materials was actually the Desserto cactus leather, which contained five restricted substances including butanone oxime, toluene, free isocyanate, an organic pesticide called folpet, and traces of a phthalate plasticiser.
The key feature of these materials is in the amount of information that the producers choose to omit, hence the only way shoppers can stay conscious is to gather all information not just from the brand or company’s marketing materials, but by researching the materials that are being sold as eco-friendly.
(Information sourced on taliacollective.com, thesustainableangle.com)
(Image 1: Photo by Rodrigo dos Reis on Unsplash)
(Image 2: Photo by okeykat on Unsplash)
(Image 3: Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash)
(Image 4: Photo by Sri Lanka on Unsplash)