As we’ve come aware of the environmental impacts of cotton, for example, technology has taken a role for years in creating new materials. Several technological innovations, alternatives for the traditional materials, have emerged. Are bananas, mushrooms and pineapples familiar to you and perhaps the answers to ethical and sustainable fashion?
Could your next shoes or favourite bag be made out of pineapple? Not as futuristic as it sounds!
Behind Piñatex™, the new textile made out of pineapple leaves is Carmen Hijosa and her company Ananas Anam. The research on using pineapple fibres, began when the leather expert Hijosa, frustrated by the heavy use of chemicals in the leather tanning process, visited the Philippines and realised many local products were made from the pineapple plant.
There are numerous bright sides in Piñatex™. Pineapple leaves are normally waste, left to rot or being burned. The pineapple industry produces each year globally 40,000 tonnes of pineapple leaves so turning the pineapple leaves into leather is not only an environmental issue but also an extra income source for farmers.
In addition, no extra land, water, fertilisers or pesticides are required to produce Piñatex as the fibres are a by-product of pineapple harvest and totally biodegradable. The innovation is, especially, an alternative for animal leather and footwear, fashion accessories and furniture can be made out of it as Lovia also pointed out earlier. Piñatex™ is a PETA certified vegan fashion label.
Got interested? EcoWatch provides a video how pineapple fabric is made.
Another fascinating innovation is growing fibre from fungus. Yes, you read right – textiles from mushroom mycelium, the root of a mushroom, can be made and used. Homemade fashion, indeed!
The process of growing your materials from small organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, is called Bio-fabrication. One of the brains behind this innovation is a Dutch fashion designer Angela Hoitink who created the fabric MycoTEX. She made a dress entirely from mycelium, by using dishes to supply nutrients and to grow the root of a common mushroom into the shape of a disc. These discs were then overlapped as a thin fabric and shaped to a mannequin as a dress. No need to sew or cut anything.
Making fibre out of fungus allows the growth of just the right amount of needed material and therefore, no leftovers or waste during the making process is produced. Plus is can easily be composted. Another benefit to mention is that while growing the MycoTEX dress, Hoitink used only 12 litres of water. On the contrary, it takes almost 2500 litres of water to produce one cotton T-shirt.
Turning bananas into fibres is not a new idea. According to Ecosalon, the fabric has been used since the early 13th century in Japanese and South-east Asian cultures.
Bananas can be turned into two types of fibres. The outer layers of the banana stalk contain coarse fibres and the inner layers, which are finer and smooth, are perfect for spinning into luxurious silks. Due to these two qualities, the banana fibres are great for both clothes and interiors.
Generally, the banana fabric is considered to be carbon-neutral and producing a kilo of fibre requires only 37 kilogrammes of stems. In 2015, The Guardian reported that the Philippine Textile Research Institute saying that in the Philippine banana plantations alone, over 300 000 tonnes of fibre could be produced.
Eco-textile company Offset Warehouse highlight that the banana fibres are quite similar to bamboo but slightly courser and naturally uneven, which makes them more durable. As well as pineapple, banana fibres are a by-product that come from the leftover stalks of banana plants after harvested for food. Therefore, turning bananas into textiles is an extra income source for farmers.
In addition to these three alternatives, coconuts and microbial cellulose can be used in clothing production. But it sure takes a lot of time to make these innovations attractive to designers and consumers and the industry to change as these all have already been in the media, more or less, since 2011.
Fortunately, we have these open-minded people making innovations, changing the ways and perhaps, these technologies might improve quickly in the future.
What do you think of Piñatex™, MycoTEX and Bananas? What it would feel like to wear them?