At the Sustainable Angle we spend much of our time researching and sourcing innovative textiles and materials with a lower environmental footprint and reducing the fashion industry’s over-dependency on conventional cotton and polyester. These materials are showcased in the annual Future Fabrics Expo as well as in workshops and Pop ups throughout the year, and a curated selection on www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com. This year we are delighted to have Orange Fiber’s innovations included in the 6th Future Fabrics Expo 25 – 26th January 2017.
In a time where fertile land is fast becoming a limited natural resource, innovative solutions are needed. The Italian Start-up Orange Fiber uses citrus waste, a by-product from the Italian juice industry to produce high quality textile fibres with a low environmental impact.
Sicily has a massive production of citrus juice, which every year also leaves around 700 tons of waste materials.
The two co-founders of Orange Fiber, Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena, saw the potential in this and developed a system where Orange Fiber converts orange peels, a by-product from the Sicilian juice industry, into high qualitative cellulose fibres. The Sustainable Angle asked Orange Fiber a few questions about their innovation and what they believe the future holds for the textile industry.
TSA: Can you provide a brief outline about what Orange Fiber is and how it has evolved since its inception?
OF: Orange Fiber is an Italian company that uses an innovative process to creates sustainable textiles for Fashion from citrus fruit by-products. Having created a supply chain network with partner companies we opened the first industrial plant in Sicily and produced different prototypes. The first textile production has been completed and some interesting top fashion brand proposals are being evaluated in view of entering the market by 2016.
TSA: What first inspired you to start to develop Orange Fiber?
OF: Orange Fiber’s idea is the result of a deep love for our homeland of Sicily, blended with the desire to innovate in a sustainable way; the Italian industry, known for its excellence in textile production.
The Orange Fiber supply chain from citrus by-product through spinning, weaving and finishing is our contribution towards sustainable fashion practice and economic, social and environmental development.
In 2011, Adriana Santanocito was studying Fashion Design and innovative materials at Afol Moda Institute of Milan, when she heard of the sustainable textiles trend, and decided to explore the subject in her thesis. By simply discussing this with citrus juice producers she discovered the problem behind the disposal of citrus waste and had the intuition to transform citrus juice by-products into a new product that would represent a brand new opportunity for Italian tradition in high quality fashion textiles. She shared the idea with Enrica Arena, and with creativity and will, they started Orange Fiber.
TSA: Can you tell us about any positive environmental / social impacts you have seen or expect to see as a result of Orange Fiber?
OF: Our innovative and patented process reduces the cost and the environmental impact of pollution related to the industrial waste of citrus juicing, by extracting a raw material apt for spinning. Our solution offers the opportunity to satisfy the increasing need of cellulose for textile, thus preserving natural resources. This process reuses waste products, saves land, water and environmental pollution.TSA: At the moment Orange Fiber is a very new and small-scale innovation. How do you expect it to be used by the industry in the future?
OF: We will complete the process of research and development, optimise the cost of production and start replicating the plant in Italy and abroad. Italy produces just 4% of the worlds citrus juice, so the opportunities to replicate the process are endless, and will allow us to lower the product price, becoming competitive with materials such as polyester and cotton. TSA: The fashion and textiles industries are some of the worst offenders out there for negative environmental and social impact. What do you think are the most pressing environmental and social challenges that we are facing in the industry?
OF: The most pressing environmental and social challenges that we are facing in the industry have to do with natural resources, protection and conservation along with the adoption of ethical business models. Considering the human cost of manufacturing clothing is as crucial as profit. In particular, fashion and textiles industries have to work to:
- develop new and more sustainable raw materials
- use recycled and innovative materials
- build sustainable supply chains
- embrace ethical business models
- consider the human cost of manufacturing clothing and protect workers
- reduce or eliminate toxic chemical use
- preserve and protect water
- minimise gas emissions
- educate designers to adopt sustainable materials in the creative process
- educate consumer behaviour and shopping habits, encouraging conscious and sustainable attitude.
TSA: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to becoming a more sustainable and less harmful industry?
OF: We believe that the biggest obstacle for the fashion industry is the fast fashion and high volume consumerist approach we have come to see. This supply chain reduces R&D and sustainability efforts in order to keep low price points and give consumers more choice.
TSA: What are your plans moving forward?
OF: Since we strongly believe that “the future is not a place we’re going to, but a place we create”, we will continue to research and develop products and new raw materials, working on industrial scale-up and improving our process according to circular economy principles. Our aim is to establish Orange Fiber as the first Italian brand to move into the sustainable textiles industry, through “green” production from renewable sources and contribute to creating a greener fashion industry.
TSA: How can industry professionals and consumers get involved and engage with the work you are doing?
OF: We are creating a B2B2C product addressing the need of fashion brands to use a high quality sustainable and innovative textile for their collections and the need of the consumer to have access to high quality sustainable clothing. Establishing Orange Fiber as an Ingredient Brand, we aim to get involved and engage with industry professionals and consumers working on the added value of the fiber origin and its environmental and social sustainability.