Let's Talk About Fruit Fibers!

By Tribute Collective on

Words by Allyna Wilson

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Image for Moss and Fog

The phrase “you are what you eat” is taking on a whole new meaning in the world of textiles. Fibers such as Piñatex®, made from pineapple, and Bananatex®, made from bananas, are making their way into the sustainable fashion scene. If you look at the label on your clothes right now, it will likely say “polyester” or “cotton”. These are the most commonly produced textile fibers, because of their cheap price and durable nature, but they are unfortunately some of the least sustainable fibers. Making textiles from fruit and vegetable components offers an innovative and more circular solution in the textile industry, and are just as cost savvy and durable. Plus, how cool would it be to say “my purse came from discarded oranges”! Now, let's take a deeper look into four emerging fruit fibers: Orange Fiber, Piñatex®, Bananatex®, and Desserto®

Orange Fiber

Thanks to the innovation from the company, Orange Fiber, you can not only eat and drink from an orange, but you can wear it too! In 2014, Italian textile brand, Orange Fiber, emerged into the fashion scene as the first brand to produce material from citrus juice byproducts.  Orange Fiber started when founder, Adriana Santanocito, proposed her idea to the co-founder Enrica Arena to make fabric from orange components. Hundreds of thousands of the byproducts from the citrus juice are used to produce the fabric. Orange Fiber discovered a way to make use out of otherwise discarded components of oranges which helps the environment by reducing waste and pollution. As explained on the Orange Fiber site, their process starts straight from the juice! After obtaining the byproduct from being industrially juiced, the citrus cellulose is then extracted, then spun into yarn.

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Image for Salvatore Ferragamo

The citrus textile is described as having “a soft and silky hand-feel”. It also has the ability to appear opaque or shiny depending on the designers desired look. The textile can be dyed and patterned. Orange Fiber fabric took to the market in 2017.  The textile has been specifically featured by H&M and Salvatore Ferragamo. In 2019, H&M featured Orange Fiber in their Conscious collection, bringing the textile to a wide audience. Salvatore Ferragamo displayed the potential of how beautifully this fabric can be transformed.

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Image for Salvatore Ferragamo

Piñatex®

As explained in their about page, the development of Piñatex® started in the 1990s, when Dr. Carmen Hijosa was consulting the Philippines leather export industry. After realizing the harmful environmental impact of leather production, she began her research for a better alternative that would maintain a low environmental footprint. The manufacturingprocess of Piñatex® is so fascinating! “Piñatex® is made of fibre from the waste leaves of the pineapple plant. These leaves are a byproduct from existing pineapple harvest, so the raw material requires no additional environmental resources to produce.”

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Image from Piñatex®

Piñatex® is a sustainably sourced, low waste textile that uses less water than other popular textiles. Because it is sourced from agricultural waste, there are no additional environmental resources needed for production. Not only does Piñatex® have a better environmental impact, but it has a profound social impact. Ananas Anam, the company behind Piñatex® , uses the Cradle to Cradle® approach which works in a circular cycle. The circular economic structure supports the environment as well as the people who are part of the production process. Farmers are able to reap the economic benefits from the added value of pineapple byproduct. From jackets, to shoes, to bags, Piñatex® is used in most facets of the clothing industry.

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Image from Piñatex®

Bananatex®

In 2018, after three years of research and development, Bananatex® was born. Bananatex® is noted as the first waterproof and sustainable fiber made from, you guessed it, bananas! Its development emerged through the collaboration of QWSTION (a Swiss bag brand), their weaving partner, and a Taiwanese yarn specialist. Bananatex® offers the bag industry a sustainable solution to the alternative synthetic fibers.

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Image from Bananatex®

Beyond being a textile, Bananatex® is an innovative remedy to deforestation in the area. As explained on the Bananatex® site, the Abacá trees (a native banana tree in the Philippines) are grown within a natural ecosystem of mixed agriculture and forestry. These trees are said to be self-sufficient and require no pesticides or extra water. Their growth has been a remedy to deforestation in parts of the former Philippine jungle which eroded due to soil damage from palm plantations.  To create the products, the Abacá fibers are transformed into a yarn. Bananatex® is even colored in a sustainable way. Their All Black yarn uses the “yarn dyeing” method which is a more sustainable alternative to the more common “roll dyeing” method.  Bananatex® is best known for their bags. On their site, they feature “The Roll Pack”, “Zip Pack”  and “The Hip Pouch”. They each have a minimalist aesthetic and are designed for versatility and efficiently. The coolest feature of Bananatex® fabric is that it is 100% biodegradable!

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Image from Bananatex®

Desserto®

Founders of Desserto®, Adrian and Marte, came up with their idea after observing environmental pollution caused by the furniture, automotive and fashion industries. After two years of research and development, the founders were able to produce an environmentally conscious leather.  Desserto®, which is made from cactus, has similar features to animal or synthetic leather. It is the first company to produce leather made from Nopal cactus, a.k.a. prickly pear. You will see that their eco-conscious production process is so interesting! Instead of using an irrigation system to water the cacti, they let Mother Nature take the reins by watering the cacti with rain water. At the farm, where the cactus grows, the farmers plant cactus that are native to the region. On the Desserto®  site, they explain the harmony of the growing process “...there is no harm to the biodiversity...our natural techniques stimulate the micro-flora and micro-fauna in the ground which is maintained without damage...”.  Desserto® products come in various colors, textures, and use. While Desserto® mainly focuses on fashion and furniture, their sister brand, Deserttex®, is solely an automotive material.

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Image from Tribute

To get another perspective of Desserto® products, from the buyer side, TRIBUTE talked to one of our designers, Salvador Compañ, owner of Lørdag & Søndag:<

Could you tell us a little bit about what cactus leather is?

Cactus Leather is an organic and vegan product manufactured by Desserto® in the State of Jalisco and Zacatecas, its an ideal material to use instead of synthetic leather, that is mainly produced from petroleum and which requires a lot of energy from fossil fuels, which doesn’t make it very environmentally friendly in the end.

How did you discover Desserto®?

Funny thing, one day the guys from Desserto® just boomed online, many websites and news sites were talking about them. What's peculiar is that none of these articles gave their contact info or even the name of the company, but they did mention the inventors names. So I looked them up on Instagram and I found one of them, I contacted them directly and that is how our business link was created.

You specifically feature Desserto® bags on your site, what encouraged you to curate this type of textile?

I’m always researching and trying new materials with my brand. I don’t believe we will stop making “real” leather products. When chosen correctly, animal leather can be even more environmentally friendly than cheap disposable polyester items that use fossil fuels and are bad quality, which break easily and become garbage very fast.

What are you hoping your consumers will learn through buying products made from sustainable and vegan textile fibers?

What’s important to know is that there are options, apart from animal leather and synthetic leathers. It’s important to be informed of the production process to all of them, that’s how we can make wiser decisions when we shop.

In what ways does this product fit in with the rest of your brand/mission?

Firstly, we are a Mexican brand that only uses raw Mexican materials, thus supporting our internal economy. So it’s fantastic to work with young designers that are creating these new amazing lines of products. Secondly, we are always aiming to be the most eco-friendly and fair to the communities of artisans that we work with; something the team from Desserto® clearly does as well.

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Image from Lørdag & Søndag

It is so fascinating to learn about the unique features of each fruit-based textile. While their material source and textures may differ, they are linked by their sustainable and ethical production. Finding ways to produce and support sustainable and organic textiles help the environment, animals, and people!