Lifestyle & Culture

Bananatex®, the World's First Waterproof Fabric Made From Banana Plants

Swiss bag brand QWSTION has created a new fabric from the fibres of banana plants and is showing that sustainable fashion can be about how something is made and with who, rather than where.

27.04.2020 | by Kezia Parkins
Images via QWSTION
Images via QWSTION

In recent years, we have woken up to the incredibly damaging practices of the fashion industry and the scary amounts of pollution it pumps into the earth’s atmosphere, with most of today’s textile production involving plastics and petroleum.

In a bid to change the tide of decades of damage, innovators around the world have been engineering new techniques and fabrics that reduce waste and utilise existing natural materials that won’t pollute the planet once we are done with them.

Swiss bag brand QWSTION is the latest on our radar of those transforming fruit into threads.

 

QWSTION

QWSTION Founders back in the day.

 

Set up by Sebastian Kruit, industrial designers Christian Kaegi and Fabrice Aeberhard, graphic designer Matthias Graf and Hannes Schoenegger, since 2008 QWSTION has been dedicated to developing versatile bags for everyday use – with an understated look and a low environmental footprint.

 

QWSTION, Bananatex

 

“We chose to develop our own materials and use natural fibres wherever possible to achieve the highest sustainability,” says QWSTION, which before developing Bananatex was focused on organic cotton bags. “Using organically grown fibres and PFC-free water-repellent coatings allows us to avoid harmful substances and make healthy products.”

Next to their own high-density organic cotton canvas fabric, the brand has recently released Bananatex®, a new shell (outer layer) fabric made in partnership with Philippino farmers and Taiwanese yarn specialists.

 

Bananatex, QWSTION

 

Bananatex® is the world’s first durable, waterproof fabric made purely from Abacá plants, colloquially known as banana hemp and scientifically as Musa Textilis.

Abacá is a plant in the banana family but instead of fruit, Abacá plants produce fibres.

 

Bananatex, QWSTION

 

Cultivated in the Philippines within a natural ecosystem of sustainable forestry, Abacá plants require no pesticides, fertilizer or additional water.

This self-sufficiency has made it an important contributor to the reforestation of areas once eroded by palm plantations, whilst enhancing the prosperity of local farmers.

The fibre in its raw form is incredibly strong and durable, also making it the ideal material to produce everyday bags and rucksacks.

 

Bananatex

 

As an open-source cross-cultural collaboration, the Bananatex® project offers a viable alternative to the synthetic fabrics that the majority of bags are made of today.

The new material is the result of 3 years of dedicated R&D and is inspired by both Swiss modernist design traditions that aim to answer questions of environmental, economic and social sustainability and East Asian resourcefulness and material expertise.

 

QWSTION, Banantex

 

To make Banantex, the raw fibre is transformed into a paper in a Taiwanese spinning mill which is then cut and twisted into yarn. This “paper-yarn” is then spun into fabric.

 

Bananatex, QWSTION

 

From there, the Bananatex fabric and bag designs — drawn up by QWSTION in their Zurich head office with patterns planned to minimize waste in the cutting process of individual parts — are sent off to Mrs Wan and Mr Lai who own a small factory in Taiwan and have 30 years experience in the craftsmanship of bag manufacture.

 

 

The end result of these collaborations are bags that are not only functional, waterproof and beautiful — but also biodegradable!

Keeping their designs as sustainable as possible the brand uses almost 100% natural and recyclable materials for all other components of the bags. They use Rayon, Cotton, or Nylon for belts and straps, and the metal parts are made of aluminium or steel. Beeswax is used for the bag’s coatings to make it fully water-resistant.

 

 

While some may see QWSTION’s outsourcing of expertise as unsustainable by today’s standards which call for everything to be made more locally, the brand has a strong argument…

They believe that it is more important to look at how a product is made rather than where.

“We manufacture where the know-how is,” says Christian Kaegi.

“We can contribute more to positive change by establishing where the supply chain is and get better standards.”

The brand affirms that its manufacturing processes both in the EU and Asia meet the highest ethical and environmental criteria.

In 2019, QWSTION was awarded the prestigious Design Prize Switzerland in the textile category for bananatex®.

“No matter which point of view, it’s either the design or the material and its origin that will surprise you,” adds Kaegi.

“With Banantex we have created a material that has the potential to be greater than us.”

 

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