In the fashion world, cotton is a real staple that has dressed people for centuries. However, cotton is not an endless resource and alternatives are needed to attire a growing population. Could 700,000 tons of citrus peel be the solution? The Italian team Orange Fiber decided to give it a go.
The innovation in a nutshell
Creating new textile out of by-products from citrus juice production.
Let us explain
In Italy alone, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of citrus peel and by-products from juice production are thrown away every year, which has both financial and environmental costs. Adriana Santanocito dared to think outside the box and saw gold where others saw waste. She contacted a lab at the Polytechnico di Milano, where she demonstrated that her idea was feasible – extracting cellulose from citrus waste and then spin it into an innovative silk-like, biodegradable fibre.
In 2013 the idea was patented and in 2015 Adriana and co-founder Enrica Arena, applied and won the Global Change Award. “With the Global Change Award we saw an amazing opportunity to develop our project, increasing its potential and positive impact,” says Enrica.
Since winning the award
The team has progressed fast. In 2017, they launched a collection with luxury Italian fashion brand Salvatore Ferragamo, who used 10,000 metres of Orange Fiber fabric to create the first-ever collection made of citrus peel.
In April 2018, Orange Fiber fabric was included in H&M’s premium sustainable collection Conscious Exclusive. In June 2019, Orange Fiber presented a limited edition of sustainable ties created by the iconic brand E. Marinella.
However, no innovation comes without challenges. “Our biggest challenges concern the industrial scale-up and cost of production. We’re working with citrus squeezers to find synergies, with the cellulosic industry to adjust their standards of production, as well as keeping in mind the brands’ requests and preferences,” says Enrica and continues: “This process requires time and investment, so we also need to attract investors who believe in and support innovation in sustainable fashion.”
To increase their production capacity further and meet the demand from fashion brands, the team needed more funds. In April 2019 they launched an equity crowdfunding campaign with the goal to collect 250,000 euro. Instead, the campaign was a big success and they quickly hit their maximum level of 650,000 euro. This will allow Orange Fiber to produce up to 60 tons of cellulose per year.
The future for Orange Fiber looks bright. When will you dress up in citrus peel?
Team members: Adriana Santanocito, Enrica Arena, Francesco Virlinzi, Antonio Perdichizzi, Corrado Blandini, Andrea Bonina, Giovanni De Caro, Moreno Petrulli
Company: Orange Fiber