Well Being

MATERIAL (R)EVOLUTION

5. April 2019

The aspiring Swiss backpack label QWSTION debuts Bananatex® during Milan Design Week 2019, showcasing the potential of plant based fibres for the architecture and design realm

A plastic free answer for our current geological age

This waterproof and durable fabric is made from sustainably grown banana plant fibres, is fully biodegradable and has the potential to replace the technical plastic materials dominating the market for outdoor applications today. With Bananatex®, QWSTION launches a material revolution that they have been working on for the past four years, demonstrating the brand’s mindset of doing instead of proposing. In a striking installation entitled “Shelter“ at the Alcova space during Milan Design Week, the designers behind QWSTION showcase the potential of this new material which was conceived as an open source project, with the goal of encouraging other brands to use it. With Bananatex®, QWSTION offers a concrete, plastic free answer for our current geological age, with human activity being the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

GOING BANANAS – THE NEW MATERIAL IN DETAIL

Behind the development of Bananatex® is a collaboration of Swiss bag brand QWSTION, a Taiwanese yarn specialist and QWSTION’s weaving partner based in Taipei, Taiwan. These three parties partnered up to engage in the intense development and production process behind the new fabric, united by the drive to make a positive impact on the planet’s future. Bananatex® is the world’s first durable, waterproof fabric made purely from Banana plants. Cultivated in the Philippines within a natural ecosystem of sustainable forestry, the plant requires no chemical treatments such as pesticides or extra water. Its self-sufficiency has made it an important contributor to reforestation of areas once eroded by Palm plantations, whilst enhancing the prosperity of local farmers. Bananatex® is incredibly strong and durable, while remaining soft, lightweight and supple. The natural wax coating gives it a smooth, waterresistant finish and a supple hand feel. The white colourway reflects the actual color of the fibres and is not dyed or bleached.

SHARING IS CARING

In a first instance, Bananatex® has been developed for QWSTION’s collection of everyday bags. But the ultimate aim is to share the material they have developed and encourage other brands to use it, in order for it to become a true alternative to the synthetic fabrics dominating the market.

THE CHALLENGE

Four decades ago petroleum based plastics set out to change the world, offering limitless possibilities for design and production at “democratic” prices. Consequently, the use of plastics spread into every corner of our lives and changed the world, but not only in good ways anticipated back then. Pollution caused by plastic is one of the big unsolved issues of our time, as currently only 9% of all plastic items produced end up being recycled. Solutions are needed, both in terms of how to deal with the plastic released in to our environment, as well as alternatives to plastic for the most common applications.

Why are the vast majority of weather resistant textiles made from environmentally harmful fibres? The answer is simple: it’s cheaper – largely due to the fact that fewer humans are involved in the process of making synthetic textiles, compared to their plant-based counterparts. This leads to another pertinent question: Is it better to prioritise consumer accessibility via a low price point, or to offer a steady source of income to a greater number of people? Our arrival in the Anthropocene has a lot to do with these questions that point at humanity’s dilemma.

THE SOLUTION

QWSTION was founded by a collective of designers and entrepreneurs almost a decade ago, and since their beginnings they have been exploring ways to make products – ones which are just as functional as they are sustainable – from renewable resources. In this process material research has played a decisive role, and their experimentation with hemp, bamboo and linen finally led to another self-sufficient plant with century old applications in making boat ropes, endemic to the Philippines. In 2015 first tests with the fibres of this plant from the

Banana tree family locally known as ”Banana Hemp” or “Abacá” were conducted. Its immense potential was immediately apparent. Thus, three years of research and development resulted in a new material that answers questions of environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Images: Courtesy of QWSTION

qwstion.com

© 2019 Robert’s