Favini_Meet the Makers_Orange Fiber_Ph Stefano Sciuto

Favini tells the story of Orange Fiber

25 Sep

Posted in Sustainability Channel

Today’s Meet the Makers feature is about the upcycling case study of Orange Fiber, an Italian company using citrus by-products to create fabrics following a circular economy model. The same model which Favini creates its ecological paper Crush from an agri industrial waste resource.

Sicilian start-up Orange Fiber manufactures a sustainable fabric using the food residues from citrus processing, so as to preserve a natural resource and benefit from the creative reuse of an industrial sub product.

For a long time, the leftover waste of agri industrial production had been considered as waste that is only fit for disposal, which is in many ways costly to businesses. However, someone had the foresight to see the opportunity of integrating these in a circular economy vision.

The inspiration: Fashion and the circular economy

Adriana Santanocito from Catania, in Italy, came up with the idea in 2011: “Whilst attending the Fashion Design course at the AFOL Moda Milano school I realised that the fashion sector is moving in a sustainable direction and I began thinking about creating a fabric out of the waste of citrus fruits, the typical produce of my land”.

Aranceto siciliano (Foto di Vincenzo Leonardi)

Sicilian orange grove (Photo by Vincenzo Leonardi)

In 2012, in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Milan, Adriana along with her friend Enrica Arena (also from Catania and holder of degrees in Development Studies and Communications) determined the project’s feasibility. In 2013 she patented the process in Italy, extending it to an international PCT in 2014. 2015 saw the inauguration of the first pilot plant in Sicily, allowing Orange Fiber to make its debut on the market.

Favini_Meet the Makers_Orange Fiber

From citrus to fabric: a case of upcycling

The first part of the transformation of citrus waste takes place in Sicily: here cellulose is extracted from the fruit and is then sent to Spain to be spun into thread. It then returns to Italy, to a Como-based textile mill: This exclusive thread is then woven together with Como silk and cotton, to obtain satin and poplin cloth.

The company’s range of products also includes a 100% Orange Fiber which creates a fine and light textile, similar to viscose. All fabrics are a natural white which can then be dyed, printed, coloured and washed just the same as traditional textiles.

Tessuto 100% Orange Fiber (Foto di Stefano Sciuto)

100% Orange Fiber fabric (Photo by Stefano Sciuto)

Optimising resources: Citrus waste becomes fabric and paper

“From mandarin to orange to bergamot, we take the pulp directly from the fruits’ squeezing process – Enrica explains –. For now, we use only a small fraction of the 700,000 tonnes of citrus residue produced in Italy each year, but we hope that our volumes will continue to grow”.

Meet the Makers_Favini_Orange Fiber

According to the Orange Fiber philosophy, the process of extracting a raw material from an industrial sub product means that it does not in compete with demand for food production, whilst additionally offers the possibility of satisfying the growing demand for cellulose use in textiles – it also removes itself from the volatility in the price of cotton and petroleum – whilst preserving natural resources (unlike the pre-existing manufactured cellulose fibre sources that derive, in the main, from wood and hemp) and it does not produce additional industrial waste.

Favini also upcycles citrus waste

Like Orange Fiber, Favini also optimises agro industrial citrus waste through an upcycling process for the production of their paper; Crush Citrus.

Watch the video to find out how Crush paper is produced with citrus fruit:

In a circular economy vision, Crush is an innovative ecological paper borne out of the creative reuse of agri-industrial residues, substituting up to 15% of wood cellulose.  Other alternative ingredients used to produce the Crush paper range, as well as citrus waste, is the agro-industrial processing waste derived from grapes, cherries, lavender, corn, olives, coffee, kiwis, hazelnuts and almonds.

Accolades for Orange Fiber and prestigious collaborations

Over the years, Orange Fiber has won a number of prizes including the National Prize for Innovation “Premio dei Premi” 2016 (Italian design) – Italian Republic, ADI, the Technology and Innovation Award 2017 – Green Carpet Fashion Awards Italia (National Chamber of Italian Fashion, Eco Age) Association for Industrial Design and the first edition of the H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award that awarded the company 150,000 euros.

Ferragamo Orange Fiber Collection è realizzata con filati sostenibili di Orange Fiber

The Ferragamo Orange Fiber Collection is made with Orange Fiber’s sustainable thread

The Ferragamo Orange Fiber Collection was presented in 2017: An exclusive collaboration for a notable fashion collection between the start-up and the famous Florentine fashion house, Salvatore Ferragamo.

The Ferragamo Orange Fiber Collection is made with Orange Fiber’s sustainable thread

The Ferragamo Orange Fiber Collection is amongst the 300 works displayed at the exhibition “Fashion from Nature” at the V&A Museum in London. (Source: Orange Fiber website)

Green revolution

“We work directly with companies – Adriana and Enrica explain – but what we’ve noticed is that over the course of the past year requests for samples have risen. This reflects a new awareness on the part of consumers: a revolution that began with a reflection on what we eat and according to us, will extend increasingly to what we wear”.

The interest towards ecologically-conscious fashion is growing and just like we luxury shoe company Womsh demonstrates, whose story, like Orange Fiber’s, Favini chose to tell in a previous Meet the Makers feature.

These two companies – Orange Fiber and Womsh – share the same principles of circularity and sustainable innovation which is also a trait of Favini and this is why we chose to give their experience a voice.

Read “Favini tells: the success story of Womsh” to find out more about the world of sustainable fashion.  Keep following Meet the Makers to discover more exemplary cases in the arena of the circular economy, sustainability and upcycling.

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