We wear what we eat. The revolution of vegan materials

Bananas, pineapples, apples, oranges, apricots, coconuts, kiwis, grapes etc… Surprised to read that wonderful fruits can be turned into vegan materials for the fashion industry?

Why should we use fruit and vegetables to produce our clothes?

Every year we throw an average of 65 kilos per person of good food in the trash.

Fruit and vegetables represent the highest rate of waste. According to the FAO, they amount to the 45% of the food waste; almost half of the entire fruit and vegetable production gets lost.

Globally, the food thrown away costs 2.6 trillion dollars a year and contributes significantly to climate change, generating 8% of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Are people looking for vegan materials?

People are increasingly looking for cruelty-free materials, which originate mostly from plants.

The problem is that many natural fibers still require huge amounts of water to be cultivated, as well as significant quantities of chemical treatments.

In addition, the increasing demand and production of fibers and garments, leads to a higher occupation and exploitation of soil that could have alternative uses.

This is why natural fibers/materials are potentially dangerous for the environment and workers’ health if not properly developed.

What is the solution to the use of natural materials?

There are plants in nature, which do not require chemical treatments, as they are self-sufficient in the ecosystem.

This is for example the case of bananas.

Banana trees contribute to the reforestation and prosperity of local communities. This has led some companies to conduct research activities on materials which can result from these plants and their fruits.

And so the banana is no longer just a source of potassium, but it turns into a durable and waterproof fabric completely circular and sustainable.

From bananas to Bananatex.

Bananatex is the name of the innovative textile, which comes from Banana plants.

Bananatex with the incredibly strong and durable nature of the fibers is the ideal fabric for accessories such as backpacks and hip pouches.

The texture remains soft and supple to the touch, yet it is very resistant. The actual color of the fibers is a natural white, without being dyed.

Developed by QWESTION, a Swiss brand of bags and backpacks, Bananatex is used for their production but it has also been the protagonist of a collaboration for the exclusive edition of the MAE Chair.

From Pineapple to Piñatex

Another disruptive material is represented by Piñatex, an alternative to leather which is obtained from pineapple leaf fibres.

In accordance with circular economy principles and cradle-to-cradle values,
Pineapple leaf fibers are agricultural by-products.

By-products are agricultural waste products that can significantly reduce the environmental impact, converting waste in resources. Infact, every year, approximately 13 million tonnes of global pineapple agriculture are wasted.

Piñatex has been launched by Ananas Anam, a benefit corporation which supports local rural communities, working directly with farming cooperatives.


From Citrus juice to Orange Fiber

In Italy more than 700.000 tons of citrus juice by-products are generated every year.

Orange Fiber, a Sicilian start up has developed and patented the first fabric obtained by citrus juice by-product. It is formed from a silk-like cellulose yarn that can blend with other materials.
Orange Fiber maintains the artisanal Italian tradition of high quality textile standards and it has already collaborated with big names like Salvatore Ferragamo and H&M.

From cereal production to eco-leather

The Italian brand Nemanti produces sustainable shoes using eco-leather that derives from cereal production waste in non-food crops.

The brand has also launched a collection with eco-leather obtained from the core of apples discarded by the agro-food industry.

The fruit peels have proved to be an excellent raw material for the production of sustainable fabrics.

It is not by chance that companies all over the world are experimenting and producing fabrics from the peel of apricots, oranges and apples. The latter is called pellemela.

From grapes to Wineleather

Wineleather is an italian vegan leather obtained from waste produced during vinification.

Wineleather saves the pomace from wine production by reusing it for the creation of a hundred percent natural and cruelty-free eco-leather.


Why are just a few brands adopting these types of materials?

There are two main obstacles to the adoption of these kinds of fabrics: Scalability and quality standards.

Behind these ecological fabrics there are years of work in research and development, accompanied by the creation and use of ad hoc machinery to convert food waste into sustainable fibers.

This, however, is a relevant limit in terms of the creation of a high number of fabrics as required by regular collections.

For this reason, even successful and established companies like Orange Fiber, are producing Capsule Collections in collaboration with the brands, in accordance to their capacity.

In addition, ecological fabrics must present the same characteristics and effects as traditional fabrics in order to meet quality standards required by the market.

In order to do so, it is necessary to find formulas that increase the durability of the plant origin textile. Chemical additives or processes, which are highly polluting to the environment.

We wear what we eat. Is this the future of fashion?

The increasing number of research and investments in the production of ecological and sustainable materials resulting from food waste is a good signal for our planet.

The conversion of waste into resources is one of the cornerstones of the circular economy. The implementation of this system within the fashion industry would make a significant contribution to the conservation of our ecosystem and the environment.

These innovations would certainly bring environmental but also economic benefits, reducing expenditure on resources and waste. It would help developing countries and local communities, responsible for exporting many local foods and currently exploited for their labour.

Last but not least, the combination of fashion and food would be an incredible asset for the Italian economy well known for its excellence in both industries.

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