Orange Fiber: The First Ever Sustainable Fabric Made From Fruit
It all started in 2011 with two Sicilian flatmates who shared a love for the environment and their hometown country of Italy.
Adriana Santanocito was a student at the Polytechnic in Milan, specializing in design and innovative textile. For her final thesis, she conducted research on a sustainable and vitamin-enriched textile made from citrus waste. Her flatmate at the time, Enrica Arena, became her most active supporter and future partner, backing Adriana’s curious idea with her communication and marketing expertise.
After years of development and a promising study, the duo, with the help of business mentors, financial supporters, and a lawyer, finally patented “Orange Fiber” and set up their innovative startup early in 2014 in Catania and Rovereto. Later that year, the two presented the first Orange Fiber prototype at the Expo Gate of Milan.
Orange Fiber aims to solve the issue of waste in the citrus industry. Sicily has a massive citrus production industry, and well over 700,000 tons of “pastazzo” (the technical term for all the citrus fruit remains after squeezing the oranges) are accumulated each year. Not only is the amount of waste massive, the cost of disposal is high as well. Furthermore, the labor market in general is currently stagnant, making it especially difficult for young people to find jobs. The project will potentially have positive social, economic, and environmental effects on the island.
Adriana and Enrica take this pastazzo and put it through a patented process to extract the cellulose to form the yarn.
The final biodegradable material is like silk: soft to the touch, shiny and smooth in appearance, and suitable with other fabrics. Not only that, the natural essential oils in the fabric from the pastazzo have a lotion-like effect that encourages smooth skin. So far, the young entrepreneurs have made three prototypes with the orange yarn: a black and white lace silk, a neutral white-cream duchesse for summer jackets or cocktail dresses, and a more daily-use fabric similar to viscose for simple shirts and summer clothes.
The ambitious yet fascinating project has steadily been on the rise, winning several awards such as the UNECE Ideas for Change Award and the Global Change Award by the H&M Foundation. It has also caught the eye of some of the big names.
Salvatore Ferragamo became the first brand to use the exclusive Orange Fiber in the product’s first capsule collection. Presented to the public last month on April 22, 2017, the 47th Earth Day, the collection includes shirts, dresses, trousers, and foulards. You can view the concept videos and more on Salvatore Ferragamo's website here.
More recently, Miroslava Duma, digital entrepreneur and investor most notable for founding Buro 24/7, has launched Fashion Tech Lab (FTL), a new venture that funds, connects, and develops cutting-edge technologies and sustainable innovation in hopes of transforming the fashion industry. One of their largest investments is in Orange Fiber. Duma is more than excited about the opportunity, claiming that it is a “zero-waste situation, no chemicals on your body, no pesticides … With Orange fiber, the funny thing is they work with the biggest juice producing companies in Italy, so they get that garbage for free. It’s a win-win situation.”
The concept of sustainability is on the rise as younger generations are becoming more aware and willing to act on various environmental issues that have caught the spotlight. And Orange Fiber is off to an impressive start; it’s one fashion tech startup we will definitely be keeping our eye on.