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Adriana Santanocito & Enrica Arena
CEO & Co-Founder and CMO & Co-Founder respectively Orange Fiber
Innovation goes orange
In a world riddled with pollution and diminishing resources, sustainability is the key. And moving in that direction, two women from Italy-Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena-have come together to convert orange waste into fibre and further into fabrics. Exquisite sustainable fabrics from citrus juice byproducts that would otherwise be thrown away, representing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of precious resources, are quite a buzz in the fashion industry. Santanocito and Arena talk about the adventure in an interview with Savita Verma.
How did the idea to create fibre/fabric from citrus waste strike you?
Enrica Arena (EA): Our adventure started at the end of 2011 in Milan, when we were finishing our studies and sharing a flat. Adriana Santanocito was studying fashion design and she was focusing on innovative and sustainable products while I wanted to get a job in line with my idea of sustainable development and social entrepreneurship. We had different backgrounds but we shared the dream of changing the world starting from our country Italy and region Sicily-using our skills and passion.
Adriana with her background in design, while writing her thesis, asked the crazy question: what if we could turn citrus juice into innovative fabrics, contributing to solve two problems-the environmental and economic impact of citrus juice leftover disposal and the need for sustainable materials in the fashion industry-at a time? Just in Italy, 700,000 tonnes of citrus byproducts have to be disposed of each year. She brought me on board, and together we started searching for an answer.</div>
What do you mean by citrus waste? Is it the waste produced during production of juice from citrus fruits like orange, lemon, sweet lemon, etc?
Adriana Santanocito (AS) & EA: Yes, exactly. We have developed and patented an innovative process to extract cellulose apt to be spun from what remains after squeezing citrus fruits for juice. According to our industry interviews and researches, on average half of the weight of a fresh fruit entering the juicing process becomes a byproduct to be disposed of.
How does it address environmental concerns? Does it require no use of chemicals?
AS & EA: Our innovative and patented process reduces the costs and the environmental impact of pollution related to the industrial waste of citrus transformation, extracting raw material-not rival to food-apt for spinning from an industrial byproduct. Further, our solution offers the opportunity to satisfy the increasing need of cellulose for textile, thus preserving natural resources. Compared to existing man-made fibres from cellulose, either from wood or from hemp and bamboo, our fibre does not require dedicated yields, but reuses a waste thus saving land, water, fertilisers and environmental pollution.
How do you convert the waste into fibre?
AS & EA: We have developed and patented an innovative process to extract cellulose apt for spinning from citrus juice byproducts. We extract cellulose in our pilot plant in Sicily, then send it to a partner in Spain which is in charge of spinning it, then the yarn comes back to us.
How do you then convert fibre to fabric? I read that nanotechnology and citrus oil are used in the process? Could you elaborate a little?
AS & EA: We extract cellulose from citrus byproducts, that is to say, from the leftovers of the citrus juice industry and we spin it, thanks to our Spanish partner. Then our yarn comes back to Italy, in Como, to our selected fabric producer, where our exclusive fabrics are finally ready to be used by the most important fashion brands in the world.
At the very beginning of our project we tried to micro-encapsulate citrus active principles-such as vitamin C and other components, naturally contained in citrus essential oils-together with a moisturising cream, and apply it on the textile with a finishing technique.
The idea was to create a textile from oranges that could release on the skin of everyone who wears it, oranges' 'active' principles. Lately, we decided to focus on the textile production optimisation, so we are currently not using micro-encapsulation on our textiles.
I understand you add silk to the fibre produced from citrus waste. Why is the need for this adding of silk?
AS & EA: Our citrus cellulose yarn has a silky feel that can be blended with other yarns and materials while being transformed into a textile in order to satisfy fashion designers' creative needs. If used pure, so developing 100 per cent citrus textile, the resulting fabric will have a soft and silky feel, and will be light weight, opaque or shiny according to the designer's needs.
Is it possible to add material other than silk like cotton or wool to the fibre produced from citrus waste?
AS & EA: Our yarn can be used for weaving any textile and it can be mixed with any kind of yarn compatible with its weight and characteristics. We have already developed fabrics adding cotton, jersey adding elastane and our twill either pure or blended with silk.
How is the fabric produced by this technology, different from other fabrics in terms of characteristics like strength, softness, durability, and washing requirements, etc?
AS & EA: Orange fibre is a cellulosic man-made fibre. For the Ferragamo Orange Fiber Collection, for instance, we used a 110 dtex filament thread blended with silk, to obtain a silky twill that has the same look, feel and function of its silk homologue. Orange fibre has the same peculiarities of cellulosic fibres and it can be used to create different look and feel according to designer's needs, as we can blend it with other natural and sustainable fibres to create new fabric design. In terms of quality, it can be dyed, coloured and printed as existing fabrics.
How are different colours produced in the fabric?
AS & EA: Our fabrics can be dyed as traditional fabrics, even using natural pigments, and for the moment we produce the yarn in a natural white colour.
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