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Bananatex®: Sustainable fabric for a circular future

Bananatex® is a groundbreaking fabric that has redefined the landscape of sustainable materials, setting new standards in environmental, economic, and social responsibility. Developed through a collaborative effort by Swiss bag brand QWSTION, Taiwanese yarn specialists, and weaving partners, this fabric has emerged as a remarkable example of responsible innovation. Its journey from cultivation in the lush Philippine highlands to recognition on the global stage is a testament to its transformative impact on the fashion and textile industry.

Figure: MCM Sommer Bucket Hat in Bananatex®

Sustainability Rooted in the Philippines

Bananatex® finds its roots in the Philippines, where the Abacá banana plant is cultivated in a natural ecosystem of sustainable mixed agriculture and forestry. Abacá is known for its self-sufficiency, requiring no pesticides, fertilizers, or excessive water to flourish. This exceptional quality of Abacá has played a vital role in reforestation efforts in regions once eroded by monocultural palm plantations. Furthermore, the cultivation of Abacá has positively impacted the economic well-being of local farmers. The interplay between sustainable agriculture and the environment is a defining feature of Bananatex®’s ethos.

From Plant to Fabric: The Transformative Journey

The creation of Bananatex® is a meticulous process, involving several crucial steps. Harvesting the Abacá plants starts with careful topping and tumbling, with the decomposing leaves acting as natural fertilizers. Skilled artisans then strip the plants to extract fine, resilient fibers, ensuring high quality. These raw fibers are sorted at cooperative warehouses before being sent to a Taiwanese paper mill for transformation into yarn.

Figure: The Bananatex® Life Cycle, Courtesy: Lauschsicht

The yarn, colored using sustainable methods in the case of the All Black colorway, is then processed for its intended use, resulting in the remarkable Bananatex® fabric. The Natural White version retains its natural color, eliminating the need for additional dyeing and preserving its inherent beauty.

Diverse Fabric Collection

Bananatex® offers a versatile range of fabrics, each embodying the exceptional qualities of this groundbreaking material.

In the lightweight category, options include Bananatex® Natural White LW Poplin DWR and Bananatex® Natural White LW Poplin Coated. For mediumweight applications, there’s Bananatex® Natural White MW Oxford DWR, Bananatex® All Black MW Oxford DWR, Bananatex® Gravel MW Oxford DWR, and a range of other variations. The heavyweight option, Bananatex® All Black HW Twill DWR, caters to more robust requirements. This diversity in fabric options opens the door to an array of applications, showcasing Bananatex®’s versatility.

Circular Sustainability

The concept of circularity is integral to the ethos of Bananatex®. To minimize waste and generate post-user value, the company has laid the groundwork for a closed technical recycling system. While recycling volumes have not been significant due to the novelty of Bananatex® products in the market, the company actively encourages its partners to initiate similar projects to create a fully circular ecosystem.

In addition to recycling, Bananatex® can also be decomposed in composting facilities or through traditional kitchen composting methods. Moreover, it has undergone lab testing to evaluate its biodegradability for industrial composting and marine conditions, further enhancing its eco-friendliness.

Global Recognition and Certifications

Since its launch in October 2018, Bananatex® has garnered international recognition for its contribution to sustainability and design. Notable accolades include the Green Product Award 2019, the Design Prize Switzerland Award 2019/20, and the German Sustainability Award Design 2021. However, a significant milestone was achieved in December 2021 when Bananatex® was awarded the prestigious Cradle to Cradle Certified® Gold designation for various colors, including Natural White, All Black, Gravel, Asphalt, and their respective durable water repellent (DWR) versions. This recognition solidifies Bananatex®’s commitment to safeguarding the environment and supporting the communities engaged with the brand.

The Circular Alternative to Synthetic Fabrics

Bananatex® stands as a beacon of hope in the world of textile innovation. Synthetic materials have long been used as a replacement for leather in handbags and accessories, often ending up in landfills or incineration. In contrast, Bananatex® offers a bio-based and renewable alternative. It is made from Abacá plant fibers, which require minimal water, no fertilizers, and no pesticides. Instead of bearing fruits, this plant produces fibers that are incredibly strong and durable, suitable for crafting items such as bags, bedcovers, or fabric shoes that demand resilience. This fabric was co-founded by QWSTION, a Swiss bag company, in collaboration with yarn experts in Taiwan and farmers in the Philippines. They use this fabric to produce backpacks and small bags for daily use. Moreover, in 2020, Banantex collaborated with companies such as shoewear brand Good News, Softline daybeds, and Bazar Noir Mae chairs, showcasing its adaptability to various applications.

Figure: Development layers of Bananatex®

Bananatex: Cultivation, Collaboration, and Commitment

Bananatex® is not just a fabric; it’s a testament to the potential of human ingenuity when driven by the desire for sustainable progress. Rooted in the cultivation of Abacá in the Philippines, this fabric embodies the spirit of ecological responsibility. Developed through a collaborative effort by QWSTION, Taiwanese yarn specialists, and weaving partners, Bananatex® is a testament to the shared ambition of creating a material that aligns with environmental, economic, and social sustainability principles.

As an open-source project, Bananatex® offers a truly circular alternative to the synthetic fabrics that have long dominated the market. This fabric goes beyond sustainability; it’s a commitment to nurturing the planet’s future. In a world where sustainability is more crucial than ever, Bananatex® shines as a model for responsible innovation, one that provides hope for a brighter, more sustainable future.

Bananatex® is more than just a fabric; it’s a symbol of hope and innovation in a world where sustainability is paramount. From its roots in the Philippine highlands to its global recognition and certifications, Bananatex® embodies the very essence of responsible innovation. Its versatile fabric options, commitment to circular sustainability, and recognition on the global stage make it a beacon of hope for a more sustainable future.

In a time when the environmental impact of our choices is of paramount concern, Bananatex® stands as a shining example of what is possible when dedication, collaboration, and vision come together to create a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow. As we look ahead, Bananatex® serves as a reminder that sustainability is not a dream but a tangible reality, and that the future of our planet rests in our collective commitment to making responsible choices.

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