Bringing about sustainability in the fashion industry has become imperative in our global mission to save the planet from our current climate emergency, seeing as it is one of the most polluting industries there is.
Similarly, we have seen a rise in action against food-waste and the wasteful practices of the food system, which accounts for 25-30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions according to a new special report from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
As such, we are now seeing an influx of brands with a focus on a circular economy — reusing and upcycling materials and turning waste into wonderful products.
One company that has found a super innovative way to bring circularity to the fashion industry is Orange Fiber, an Italian company creating sustainable fabrics from citrus juice by-products that would otherwise be thrown away.
“A marked increase in food processing over the past 50 years has gradually generated an enormous amount of non-edible byproducts and the potential for the senseless discarding and waste of our natural resources. However, we’re proud to have identified and developed a tremendous opportunity for the application of industrial ecology, allowing us to reduce waste as well as pollution by transforming citrus juice byproducts into a new and sustainable product,” says Orange Fiber.
Co-founded in February 2014 by Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena, Orange Fiber was born out of a fashion design thesis idea of Adriana’s to create a sustainable fabric.
Adriana teamed up with Enrica, an International Communication and Cooperation student, and with the support of the Polytechnic University of Milan the two students filed an Italian patent, which was extended to international protocol in the U.S., Brazil, India, Mexico and the European Union.
In Italy alone, every year, more than 700.000 tons of citrus waste is produced and, until Orange Fiber, no one has developed a viable alternative for its disposal.
“It is for these reasons that we have worked to unite oranges, which are typical of Sicily, and world-renown Italian excellence in textiles, developing a disruptive technology that creates an innovative material out of industrial byproducts,” says Orange Fiber.
“Existing textiles are unable to satisfy the increasing demand in quantity and quality, even before issues of sustainability are considered.”
Combining two pillars of Italian heritage — textiles and food — Orange Fiber is bringing together the demands of both innovation and sustainability in the fashion industry.
Their fabrics are formed from a silk-like cellulose yarn that can blend with other materials. According to the company, when used in its purest form, the resulting 100% citrus textile features a soft and silky hand-feel, lightweight, and can be opaque or shiny according to production needs.
Orange Fiber’s patented process
To produce the fabric, Orange Fiber uses “hundreds of thousands” of tons of citrus juice byproduct, colloquially known as “pastazzo,” that otherwise would be wasted.
Using their patented process, Orange Fiber extracts the citrus cellulose from the “pastazzo” to create a polymer which is then spun into yarn and used to create “refined, ethereal and high-quality fabrics ideally suited to luxury and premium fashion brands.”
The first fashion house to employ Orange Fiber fabrics was Luxury Italian brand Salvatore Ferragamo in 2017. The collection featured floral prints from free-hand architect and designer Mario Trimarchi and coupled with the silky Orange Fiber material, the resulting pieces echoed an undeniably Sicilian embodiment of Mediterranean style.
Salvatore Ferragamo x Orange Fiber
More recently, this year Orange Fiber collaborated with Swedish fast-fashion brand H&M for their Conscious Exclusive Collection 2019 — a premium collection made with only recycled and sustainable materials.
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The H&M collection also saw the use of another innovative fabric brand creating materials from fruit — Ananas Anam, a UK-based company that uses discarded pineapple leaves from the Philippines pineapple harvest to create Pinatex, a vegan, sustainable alternative to leather.
One of Orange Fiber’s collaborations with Salvatore Ferragamo was part of the UK’s Victora & Albert Museum’s 2018/19 Fashioned From Nature exhibition, the first UK exhibition to explore the complex relationship between fashion and nature.
For their commitment to sustainability in fashion, the designer duo has also been recognised by the United Nations, as innovations such as theirs are crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
The company recently raised 650,000 euros in crowdfunding create a production plant able to extract up to 30 tons of cellulose per year.