Sicily and southern Italy is synonymous with citrus fruits and now it’s about to become synonymous with two natives who have devised a revolutionary and sustainable fabric made from citrus waste, known as Orange Fiber.
Orange Fiber is the brainchild of two Sicilian ladies Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena who developed the idea while sharing a flat together in Milan during their studies.
Orange Fiber is a textile made by extracting the cellulose from the fibres that are discarded from the industrial pressing and processing of oranges. The fibre, created using nanotechnology techniques, is also enriched with citrus essential oil. The result is a “vitaminic textile” that nourishes the skin on touch, like a non-greasy body lotion.
Possible uses for the Orange Fiber textile are far and wide – from cosmetic textile, home textile through to fashion textile, including for use in the production of clothes and accessories.
Every year in Italy alone, over 700,000 tonnes of peels from citrus fruits are discarded.
In Sicily, the citrus industry has been suffering and the labour market, in general, is stagnant, especially for young people.
Orange Fiber potentially can have important positive social and economic effects for the Italian island as well as mainland Italy.
With this awareness, Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena got to work on creating Orange Fiber in 2011 while sharing a flat as well as each other’s expertise – Adriana Santanocito, a fashion and design student specialising in design and innovative textile, and Enrica Arena, studying communications and marketing.
For her thesis, Adriana Santanocito was conducting research on a sustainable and vitamin-enriched textile from citrus waste. Enrica Arena embraced the idea adding to it her communication and marketing expertise, including her English language skill. Adriana Santanocito’s thesis became a project at the Polytechnic of Milan and after a feasibility study, the team patented Orange Fiber.
With the financial support of Trentino Sviluppo, an Italian organisation dedicated to promoting sustainable development in Trentino, and the help of two business entrepreneurs and a lawyer, Orange Fiber officially became a startup, based in Catania and Rovereto, in 2014.
Orange Fiber is an innovative textile and business from two ladies who care about their environment and the land they call home, as well as its people.
Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena say: “We [Orange Fiber] want to transform citrus by-products in a sustainable textile that would represent a brand new opportunity for Italian tradition in high quality textiles and fashion.
“Take a minute to imagine all the industrial waste of citrus transformation in the world turned into a sustainable and innovative textile to wear. This is our dream and we want to realise it starting from our country, Italy.”
While Italy is world renowned for its textiles and fashion industry, it is not as forward-thinking in its approach to textiles and fashion when it comes to sustainability, as the Orange Fiber Enrica founders have noted.
In an interview with Who U Wearing?, Enrica Arena said: “We wanted to do something completely different, that was fully sustainable. Most of the companies in Italy, from what we know, have a long tradition [in fashion and textiles] but they struggle with innovation.”
Last year, Orange Fiber won the H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award aimed at selecting bold ideas that can help to protect the earth’s natural resources and close the loop for fashion.
The Global Change Award, which provided the team with funding, has enabled Orange Fiber to test, improve and scale their business idea. As a result, Orange Fiber have been able to make improvements to their process according to circular economy principles.
The Award has also provided the Orange Fiber team with exclusive fashion industry access and enabled them try out ideas within the fashion value chain.
Orange Fiber have been in talks with fashion brands, including Italian fashion houses, who have been testing Orange Fiber textiles for use in prototyping.
Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com