From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Future Food Institute — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Today we are in Sicily, Italy, and we have the opportunity to sit down with two entrepreneurs and makers who are making the history of sustainable fashion.
Adriana was studying Fashion Design at AFOL Moda – Milan, when she got specialized in textiles, materials and new fashion technology. She personally conducted a research on turning organic unused food into fabric and she fell in love with the possible outcomes of it. Together with her, Enrica started supporting this exploration path and taking care of communication. “Our adventure started at the end of 2011 in Milan, when we were finishing our studies and sharing a flat. Adriana wanted to become a fashion designer with an innovative and sustainable product and I wanted get a job in line with my idea of sustainable development and social entrepreneurship,” says Enrica. “We had different backgrounds but we shared the dream of changing the world, starting from our country, and using our skills and passions.”
These two young women looked to create an impact in the food and fashion space. This led them to creating Orange Fiber.
Why do you think our society needs what you’ve created?
In Italy, every year, more than 700,000 tons of citrus juice by-products are produced. The disposal of these leftovers has important economic and environmental costs, but until a few years ago, no one had developed a viable alternative to their disposal. On the other hand, we face an ever-increasing number of consumers that demand sustainable materials or fashion brands seeking green innovation.
What drove you to bring your food prototyping to a textile space?
We saw an opportunity where others only saw a problem, we envisioned a new life for these byproducts. Following a collaboration with Politecnico di Milano University, back in 2012, we started working on an innovative process to create a sustainable fabric that used the leftovers of the citrus transformation industry. It is for these reasons that we have worked to unite oranges, which are typical of Sicily, and world-renowned Italian excellence in textiles, in the development of a technology that creates an innovative material out of industrial byproducts.
So, tell us more about your creation. What exactly have you been working on?
We have developed and patented an innovative process to create a sustainable fabric that uses the leftovers of the citrus transformation industry – that amounts to more than 700,000 tons of by-products just in Italy. Basically we extract the cellulose from citrus byproducts, and we spin it together with a partner. The result is a cellulose yarn with a silky feel that can be blended with other yarn and materials. This transforms it into a textile of a high enough quality to satisfy all the needs of a fashion designer. If used pure, a 100% citrus textile, the resulting fabric will have a soft and silky feel, be lightweight, and appear opaque or shiny according to the production needs.
Is there any special feature that the product has thank you to the process you have been designing?
Compared to existing man-made fibers from cellulose, either from wood or from hemp and bamboo, our fiber does not require dedicated yield alternatives, nor does it specifically prey on natural resources. Instead it reuses a waste, saving land, water, fertilizers and helping to prevent environmental pollution.
What part of what you’re doing are you most proud of?
We’re proud to have identified and developed a tremendous opportunity for the application of industrial ecology that allows us to reduce pollution by transforming waste into a new and sustainable material.
What does society gain from your contribution?
With our Orange Fiber we pursue the dream of creating a project that makes a difference and generates economic and social development through sustainable and circular models. This creation reduces the quantity of waste that needs to be disposed of with a consequent reduction of CO2 emissions, saving natural resources and environment from textile and fashion industry impact, as well as creating a new market for the citrus sector.
Which are your next steps?
Since we strongly believe that “the future is not a place we’re going to, but a place we create,” we will continue our research and development on our products and new raw materials, working according to circular economic principles.
Our aim is to establish Orange Fiber as the Italy’s first influencer of green production in the sustainable textiles industry, and represent a valid alternative to traditional textiles!