Approved by curator
Added: Aug 05, 2021
Last edited: Aug 13, 2021
Synthetic materials have been increasingly used as a leather replacement for making handbags and accessories for the last few decades and often end up in landfills or incinerated. Finding other alternative bio-based or renewable materials have been at the core of innovation within the textile industry. Bananatex is a fabric made from Abacá plant fibre (banana hemp or Musa Textilis). The plant requires very little water, no fertilizer, and no pesticides. Instead of producing fruits, this plant produces fibres. The raw form of this fibre is strong and durable and therefore can be used to make items such as bags, bedcovers, or fabric shoes which require durability and solidity.
The material was co-founded by QWSTION, a Swiss bag company, by collaborating with yarn experts in Taiwan and farmers in the Philippines. They use this fabric to produce backpacks and small bags for daily use. In 2020, Banantex collaborated with companies such as shoewear brand, Good News, Softline daybeds, and Bazar Noir Mae chairs.
The textile industry relies mostly on non-renewable resources - 98 million tonnes in total per year – including oil to produce synthetic fibres, fertilisers to grow cotton, and chemicals to produce, dye, and finish fibres and textiles (1). The industry has a negatively high impact on the environment and society. Textiles production (including cotton farming) also uses around 93 billion cubic metres of water annually. Beyond production, washing clothing using washing machines is estimated to require an additional 20 billion cubic metres of water per year globally, contributing to problems in some water-scarce regions such as India, China, Turkey and the US.
With low rates of utilisation (leading to high levels of throughput) and low levels of recycling, the current wasteful, linear system is the root cause of this massive and ever-expanding pressure on resources (2). Furthermore, it uses and releases a large number of hazardous chemicals and microplastics during the washing of plastic-based textiles such as polyester, nylon, or acrylic. More microplastics are found in the ocean increasingly every year, the full extent of damage they cause is still unknown.
Renewable materials and inputs play an important role in the transition of the textile industry to reach circularity. Where recycled fabrics are not available, using renewable materials and inputs can decrease the negative impact on both environment and people in comparison to petroleum-based materials.
Bananatex offers a viable alternative to the synthetic fabrics that most bags are made of today. The plant, Abacá, is sturdy and self-sufficient and requires no pesticides or extra water and it contributes to reforestation in areas of former Philippine jungle, eroded by soil damage due to monocultural palm plantations, whilst enhancing the economic prosperity of its farmers.
The production of the material includes cutting the plants, extracting fibres, moving them to a factory to make paper. Next is the yarn spinning, weaving, and finishing with beeswax to create a waterproof layer. At the end of use, this fabric can be biodegraded without harming the environment.
The fabric is now successfully being used for a multitude of items such as sneakers, daybed layers, chairs, bags and accessories. Company collaborations include; Good News x H&M, Qwstion, Magazin x Softline and Bazar Noir.