If you are a nature and flower enthusiast, you might be interested in knowing about a unique material that is revolutionizing the world of textiles. This material is Bananatex®, and it is a sustainable fabric made from banana plants, specifically from the Abacá plant, a member of the banana family that grows in the Philippines. Bananatex® is not only a natural and biodegradable material, but also a durable and waterproof one that can be used for making bags, jackets, accessories, and many more items.
Developed by Swiss bag brand and material innovators, QWSTION, in collaboration with other partners, Bananatex® offers a circular alternative to synthetic fabrics, making a positive impact on the sustainable future of the planet. Considered to be, possibly, the world's first fabric made from naturally grown Abacá banana plants, this material demonstrates a remarkable achievement in the ever continuous quest for eco-friendly and socially responsible materials.
The Story Behind Bananatex
Bananatex® is the result of a three-year research and development project by QWSTION, a Swiss bag brand and material innovator. QWSTION was founded in 2008 by Matthias Graf, Christian Kägi, Sebastian Kruit, Babrice Aeberhard, and Hannes Schönegger.
The Zurich-based bag label is known for combining design, style and functionality with sustainability, and since its inception, the brand has been exploring ways to use natural and organic fibers for its products, such as organic cotton, hemp, linen, and wool.
However, it was not satisfied with the existing options, as they still required a lot of water, energy, and chemicals to produce and process. QWSTION sought to find a material that was truly sustainable, both environmentally and socially.
In 2015, QWSTION discovered the Abacá plant, also known as ‘anana hemp’ or ‘Manila hemp’, which is native to the Philippines and has been used for centuries for making ropes, paper, and textiles. The Abacá plant is a fast-growing and self-sufficient crop that does not need any pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or extra water to thrive.
"Over the past years we’ve been developing Bananatex®, which is a sleek, waterproof fabric made from 100% natural banana fibers. It is super strong and durable, yet light and flexible, the natural beeswax coating gives it a smooth, water-resistant finish and a supple hand feel. Given our ultimate aim of offering a viable alternative to the synthetic fabrics that currently dominate the bag industry, we developed Bananatex® as an open-source project, and want to encourage other brands to use it."
The Abacá banana plant has many positives. It grows within a natural ecosystem of mixed agriculture and forestry, where it helps to prevent soil erosion, protect biodiversity, and sequester carbon. The unique banana plant also provides a steady source of income for the local farmers, who harvest the plant by hand and process it using traditional methods.
Seeing the potential of the Abacá plant as a sustainable textile source, QWSTION decided to collaborate with a local weaving mill and a Taiwanese yarn specialist to develop a new fabric from it, and named the fabric Bananatex®. Technically, this is the world’s first fabric made purely from banana plants. Bananatex® was launched in 2018, after three years of testing and refining, and received the Cradle to Cradle Certified® Gold certification, the global standard for products that are safe, circular, and responsibly made.
How Bananatex Is Made? And What Are Its Perfect Qualities?
Bananatex® is made from the fibers extracted from the stalks of the Abacá plant. The fibers are separated from the stalks through a process called decortication, which involves scraping the stalks with a knife or a machine. These fibers are then washed, dried, and combed to remove any impurities and to align them for spinning.
They are then spun into yarns, which are then woven into fabrics. The fabrics are coated with a natural beeswax to make them water-resistant and smooth, and the whole process is done without any chemicals, dyes, or bleaches, resulting in a fabric that is 100% natural and biodegradable.
The material has several qualities that make it suitable for various applications. It is strong and durable, yet light and flexible. It is breathable and moisture-wicking, yet water-resistant and anti-bacterial. It has a natural beige color and a textured surface that give it a unique and stylish look. It can, easily, be cut, sewn, and shaped into different forms and sizes. It can also be combined with other materials, such as organic cotton or recycled polyester, to create different blends and effects.
What Are the Uses of Bananatex®?
Bananatex® is mainly used for making bags, as it is the core product of QWSTION. QWSTION has created a range of bags made from Bananatex® such as backpacks, tote bags, hip pouches, zip packs, and travel kits. These bags are designed to be versatile, functional, and stylish, suitable for different occasions and needs.
The bags feature multiple carrying options, such as handles, straps, hooks, and buckles, that allow the user to adapt them to their preference. They also have various compartments, pockets, and zippers, that provide ample space and organization for the user’s possessions. These bags are available in different colors, such as natural white, sage, granite, and all black, that match well with any outfit.
Bananatex® is also used for making other products, such as jackets, accessories, and sleeves. For example, QWSTION has collaborated with Monocle, a global media brand, to create a collection of Bananatex® products, such as a holdall, a folio, and a pouch.
QWSTION has also collaborated with Stella McCartney, a British fashion designer, to create a limited edition jacket made from Bananatex® and recycled polyester. The innovative company has also developed Bananatex® sleeves for computers and other devices, protecting them from scratches and bumps.
Does Bananatex Help in Environmental Sustainability?
Bananatex® is a material that supports environmental and social sustainability in various ways. Firstly, it is made from a renewable and natural resource, the Abacá plant, which grows abundantly and organically in the Philippines. The Abacá plant does not deplete the soil or the water, but rather enriches them and enhances the natural ecosystem. The Abacá plant also absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits, making it a carbon-negative crop.
What is more, Bananatex® is produced without any harmful chemicals, dyes, or bleaches, which means it does not pollute the air, the water, or the land. This material is also biodegradable, which means it can be composted or returned to the soil at the end of its life cycle.
Even more, Bananatex® provides economic and social benefits for the local communities in the Philippines, who grow, harvest, and process the Abacá plant. The Abacá plant offers a stable and fair income for the farmers, who use traditional and artisanal methods to work with the plant. The Abacá plant also preserves the cultural heritage and the craftsmanship of the people, who have been using the plant for generations.
Furthermore, Bananatex® is a material that demonstrates how innovation and sustainability can go hand in hand. Using this material harnesses the benefits of a high-quality and functional product, while also contributing to the protection and regeneration of the environment. It inspires a rethinking of the way we make and use things, and to adopt a more circular and responsible way of living. It also shows the beauty and potential of nature and plants.
The cultivation of Abacá banana plants, from which this material is made, also plays a significant role in reforestation efforts. It restores areas that were once eroded by monocultural palm plantations. This sustainable cultivation enhances biodiversity and promotes economic prosperity for local farmers, since the plant thrives within a natural ecosystem of sustainable mixed agriculture and forestry. And further to these, this resilient plant requires no pesticides, fertilizers, or extra water, making it self-sufficient and environmentally friendly.
An Innovative Solution That Shapes a More Sustainable Future
With that in mind, one can’t help but acknowledge that Bananatex® represents a novel nature-inspired revolution in sustainable fabrics. It showcases the fascinating collaboration between human ingenuity and the natural world.
The innovativeness that goes into its creation typifies the principles of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. And as people and industries increasingly prioritize eco-conscious choices, this material offers itself as an innovative solution that can shape a more sustainable future.
PS: Beyond the textile industry, did you know that banana plants are also perfect for landscaping? Well, in this case, you may be interested in learning about the Musa Basjoo banana trees, which are quite an exotic addition to your landscape, and also this intriguing banana garden designed by Menis Architects