How Food Waste Becomes Fashion

The way food waste becomes fashion is giving us hope for a more sustainable future

By Diane Small

Cotton. It’s absolutely everywhere, from your tee shirt to your cotton buds. Although it’s a plant based fibre, it’s far from sustainable. That’s because it’s usually GMO, is one of the thirstiest crops in the world, and also one of the most heavily sprayed with pesticides.

But there’s good news on the fashion horizon, too! Food waste is being transformed into clothing, mainly with thanks to system called Agraloop. It’s a regenerative system that uses plant-based chemistry and plant-based energy to upgrade food fibres into clothing, whilst enriching the local communities and basically creating a new economic system.

And it’s the future of fashion.

How Food Waste Becomes Fashion

Circular Systems’ Agraloop received a grant of $350,000 from the H&M Foundation. They won that after they won H&M’s Global Change Award, which seeks to recognise the most exciting developments in sustainable fashion.

The grant allowed the company to mass produce clothing derived from food waste. And that’s a great thing for the planet! Back in 1960, 97% of textile fibres came from plants and animals. Today, we only use 35% natural fibres! And petrochemical based clothing is the norm.

Luckily, today, there are more and more opportunities  to convert 10 million tons of food waste into sustainable textiles and fashion. This is helping to drive a paradigm shift back to natural fabrics.

Fruity Fashion

For example, technology allows us to spin apple and orange peels, banana skins, pineapple leaves, sugarcane bark, mushrooms and even milk into thread. This means less food crop waste will be burnt or left to rot, releasing methane gas and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Systems like Agraloop’s are thus helping to regenerate depleted soil and reduce air pollution.

Perhaps best of all, unlike many synthetics and GMO cotton, clothing made with these new fibres is all safe and healthy to wear. It’s also recyclable, renewable and biodegradable.

From a technological standpoint, the system is a closed-loop bio process. It happens at the farm level using modular mini-mills. These produce plant-based energy from the same food waste. And unlike growing corn for biofuel, the Agraloop concept doesn’t compete with a farmer’s primary focus of growing food. Instead, it provides an additional source of income.

Skeptical that food waste could possibly be spun into something gorgeous? These examples below will change your mind!

Examples Of Food Waste In Fashion

1. Banana Fibre

After becoming ill, Nicki reevaluated her life and was inspired to live with health and happiness as a priority, not only for herself, but also for the planet. And so her sustainable fashion brand, Milo + Nicki, was born.

Milo + Nicki create fun, tropically inspired garments from banana fibres. We love their  6>1 maxi skirt. You can wear it a full six ways – or even more! It offers perfect versatility for travel and creative wardrobes.

How Food Waste Becomes Fashion

2. Orange Fibre

As fine and strong as silk, orange fibres are perfect for creating sustainable luxury garments. Italian label Ferragamo was the first major fashion house to make use of Orange Fibre threads, created by Adriana Santanocito. Adriana also showed what her beautiful, sustainable textiles could do at Green Fashion Week in Milan and Los Angeles recently. Apparently, she was inspired by the 700,000 tons of orange peels discarded when making juice in Italy each year.

While working on her dissertation in fashion design, Santanocito decided to develop the project with Enrica Arena, an International Communication and Cooperation student, with the support of the Polytechnic University of Milan. The duo launched and patented Orange Fiber Fabrics in the hopes of making a difference in the fashion industry.

How Food Waste Becomes Fashion

3. Pineapple Waste

Spanish designer Dr Carmen Hijosa is the brains behind Piñatex, a material based on pineapple bush fibres. She’d worked for years in the leather industry, and became keen to find a cruelty-free alternative to animal hide that was also planet-friendly.

On one particular business visit to the Philippines, she had a lightbulb moment. She discovered that women in the Philippines wore traditional shirts made from the pineapple leaf fibres that were left over after harvesting the fruit. This sparked years of research and development into creating a new sustainable textile. And so Piñatex was born.

Today, Piñatex is used in many vegan leather brands’ bags and shoes, proving that food waste fashion is definitely becoming a ‘thing’!

How Food Waste Becomes Fashion


4. Apple Peels

Who says vegan leather has to be made from nasty plastic? Leading luxury vegan shoe brand, Veerah, has just launched a new line of vegan heels made from apple peels.

According to the company, the heels are a byproduct of apple juice that comes from a sustainable orchard in Italy: “The production process involves scientists taking dry apple peels and extracting fibers to construct apple leather, a sustainable textile,” the company said in a statement.  “The apple leather is breathable, durable, chemical free, UV resistant and it looks and feels like real leather.”

But it’s not just Veerah using apples to replace animal leather. NAE Vegan, JW Pei (pictured below), Nuwaaii and other vegan friendly brands are doing it, too! So really, there’s just no excuse to kill animals for shoes anymore at all….

apple leather bag

5. Corn Fibre

It’s one of the most ubiquitous crops in the world. And when you peel it, to get to the food, there’s a whole lot of plant-based waste. So we were super excited to learn that corn fibre can actually be transformed into a form of vegan leather!

One great example of this comes from NAE Vegan shoes. Their Sima Black women’s platform boots (pictured below) come from Bioeco Corn microfibre. It offers a sustainable, innovative, water resistant, light, very durable and cruelty-free material. What’s not to love?

corn fibre boots

Do you know of any other ways how food waste becomes fashion? Please let us know in the comments, below!

Main image: Crossbody Tote in Pinatex from HFS Collective. Second image: Sunad

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