Move over leather and cotton. Today´s fashion statements can easily be made from what you might find in your kitchen.
The fact that the cotton production industry is labour intensive and involves a lot of chemicals and fresh water has been known for many years. Similarly, leather production suffers not only from these wasteful practices but also from the ethical aspect of killing animals for fashion. This has spawned a wide range of cotton and leather alternatives, many of which are already making an impression in the fashion world.
Ananas Anam is a company specialising in pineapple fabric. Their product Piñatex is made of ﬁbre from the leaves of the pineapple plant. These leaves are discarded from the pineapple harvest, so the raw material requires no additional environmental resources to produce.
The long fibres are extracted through a process called decortication, which is done at the plantation by the farming community. Ananas Anam has developed the first automated decorticating machine to assist with this process, allowing farmers to utilise greater quantities of their waste leaves. Once the leaves have been stripped of fibre the leftover biomass can be used as a nutrient-rich natural fertiliser or a biofuel, so nothing is wasted.
The fibres then get degummed and undergo an industrial process to become a non-woven mesh, which forms the base of Piñatex. The rolls of non-woven mesh are then transported to Spain for specialised finishing. The result is a leather-like appearance, a textile that is soft and flexible, yet very durable.
India is one of the world’s largest cotton producers and exporters. Drought-like conditions in recent years in parts of India have, however, even forced farmers to uproot their crops to preserve what little moisture remains in the soil.
India is also the world’s largest banana producer, and some farmers are getting help through a Swiss project from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences. They are investigating ways to convert the banana pseudostem, a waste product, into yarn that can be used for different textiles. The coarser and finer parts could be spun by mills and farming families and used to make both carpets or upholstry fabrics, as well as luxury fabric for the apparel industry.
Apple leftover leather
Leather made from apples, for example, is utilised by Swiss company Happy Genie to make stylish handbags. The process involves taking the leftover remains after apples have been juiced, then dehydrating and grinding them to a flour. The raw material receives some colour and texture before being handmade into bags in Italy.
German high end sneaker brand nat-2 creates vegan luxury sneakers made from a range of edible products, from mushrooms to coffee. The 100% vegan, unisex sneaker’s upper sides are made from real sustainable recycled coffee, coffee beans and coffee plant, which covers up to 50% of the shoe’s surface, depending on each style.
All shoes are 100% vegan and equipped with a soft padded, anti-bacterial real cork insole. The glue is free from animal ingredients and the outsoles are made from real rubber. Parts looking like suede or nappa leather are made from recycled PET bottles.
More to come
The list of cotton and leather alternatives is likely to grow every year, as innovative creative minds help consumers combine their thirst for fashion in a sustainable and ethical way.
Image credit: Slava Petrov via flickr