Fruity fabrics: textile innovation that works with the natural world, not against it

It’s no secret that contributing to a more sustainable fashion industry begins with the sourcing of raw materials. Many fabrics commonly used in textile production, including non-organic cotton which is treated with pesticides, can be extremely harmful to the environment, people and animals. As more brands commit to environmentally friendly practices amid the climate crisis, designers are getting creative to find accessible and sustainable materials that can be shaped into beautiful garments, giving a whole new meaning to ‘juicy couture’.


Bananas in backpacks

Bananatex is the world’s first durable, waterproof fabric made purely from Abacá Banana plants. The material is the result of three years of research and development from Swiss backpack brand QWSTION, a Taiwanese yarn specialist and QWSTION’s weaving partner based in Taipei. Production only uses the stalks - which regenerate fully within one year of being harvested - and the plants are organically cultivated in the Philippines and require no chemical treatments. Bananatex offers an excellent eco-friendly alternative to the synthetic, often plastic-based, fabrics commonly used to make bags today. Even once the bags reach the end of their life, they won’t become another item sent to landfill because the fabric is biodegradable, and the components are recyclable.

Source: Design Scene


Silk from orange skins

In Italy, over 700,000 tonnes of citrus juice by-products - the ‘pastazzo’ - are wasted every year. Innovative brand Orange Fiber turns this waste into a cellulose yarn to create 100% citrus, biodegradable fabric which feels soft, silky and lightweight. It is surprisingly versatile and can be blended with other materials and be opaque or shiny according to the designer’s needs. Italian luxury brand Salvatore Ferragamo made a collection exclusively using Orange Fiber in 2017 and the material has more recently been used by H&M.

Sources: Green Matters (left) and Design Boom (right)

Cruelty-free leather

After designers struggled to find a leather alternative that manages to be both cruelty free and eco-friendly, many plastic-free options are now emerging. Up-and-coming Mexican brand Desserto are shaking things up by transforming nopal cactus leaves into all-natural, cruelty-free leather. Their fabric is partially biodegradable, soft, durable and of such quality it can be used to make clothing, accessories and even furniture. The nopal cactus grows in abundance throughout Mexico and doesn’t need any water to grow, making it an excellent raw material for sustainable production.

Meanwhile Dr Carmen Hijosa, founder of Ananas Anam has developed Piñatex, a natural, sustainably-sourced alternative to leather made from pineapple leaves, which are traditionally discarded or burned. As a byproduct of existing agriculture, the use of these leaves creates an additional income stream for local farming communities, while requiring no extra environmental resources to produce. Livia Firth unveiled a Piñatex gown to the 2017 MET gala and the fabric has since been making an impact with major brands such as Hugo Boss, & Other Stories and Sézane.

Sources: Piñatex, Andrea Kader and Ananda Zurich