Natural Materials For Sustainable Fashion (Part 2)

Maria San Juan-Andretta Abaca fiber Natural fibers sustainable abaca face mask

Natural Fiber:  The Abaca Fiber

Another indigenous material that is proliferous in the Philippines is abaca. It is also known as Manila hemp or sometimes, as Cebu or Davao hemp. Being a strong all-natural fiber, abaca is preferred over man-made fibers like plastics and other synthetic materials for use in various industries around the world. The Philippines is the largest producer of abaca, supplying about 87% of the world’s requirement for the production of cordage, specialty papers (for currency notes, stencil paper, teabag, coffee filter/cup, capacitor and insulation paper, etc.), textiles, furniture and fixtures, handicrafts, novelty items, meat casing, cosmetics and skin care products, grocery bags, composites for automotive and construction, and other industrial applications.

The abaca plant is related to and quite similar to the banana plant. It grows from the rootstock and yields up to 25 fleshy, fiberless stems. Moreover, the abaca plant does not use extra land, water or fertilizers to grow, unlike cotton, which requires tilling to re-fertilize the soil. The abaca could grow in the same place. It can be intercropped with coconut palms and other trees. The plant could effectively improve the water holding capacity of the soil. Hence, it is also incorporated in reforestation farming systems since it can prevent floods and landslides. In fact, farmers use abaca waste materials used as organic fertilizer.

Abaca fiber production follows a lengthy process of cultivation just like producing piña fibers. First, the trunk of the tree is soaked usually, in nearby rivers to soften the trunk and to make it easier to separate the fibers. Afterwards, the fibers are extracted from the stems either by hand using a tool or a stripping machine. Next, the fibers are knotted, washed and dried in the sun. The fiber goes through processing and are then sorted by grade. Abaca fiber is generally woven in mechanical looms.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone. It has slowed down the country’s economy. Various industries, including fashion, have suffered. With the sustained demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks among others, encouraging and supporting the use of alternative natural fibers coming from abaca, pineapple, and coconuts in making these items could restart and revive local economies. This definitely is an opportunity for the fashion industry to help local farmers. At the same time, this is a chance to push for a more efficient and systematic approach to production, particularly for pineapple and abaca fibers, while pursuing an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Our artisans are quick to respond to the demand for a more sustainable yet efficient face covering.  Valued for its exceptional strength, flexibility and resistance to water, abaca is suitable for use across different seasons.  Abaca face coverings certainly give proper protection during flu season in fall and winter.  Not only that,  they are certainly fashionable!  Just take a look at these abaca face masks.

Now produced, exclusively perhaps, in the Philippines.  Wyohflowers Ethical Fashion Online Shop has made them available for you here.

Sustainable fashion makes an individual think beyond the product. Sustainable fashion encourages consumers to know the story behind the products they buy. It urges consumers to deep dive into their buying behavior. In other words, the concept of sustainable fashion is inseparable from having sustainable consumer behavior. You and I need to move to choosing and buying products that are not only made of sustainable materials but also the processes used in making those materials do not harm the environment. If you ask me again, where does sustainable fashion start? It starts with you and me.

If you are concerned about the excessive wastes produced and simply thrown away in the environment, then join and support initiatives like the Wyohflowers Ethical and Slow Fashion Online Shop. You can rest easy that the fashion items you buy will have less carbon footprint. 

 

References:

  1. Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority. “Philippine Abaca Helps in Global Environment Conservation.” https://www.philfida.da.gov.ph/ index.php/archived-articles/19-philippine-abaca-helps-in-global-environment-conservation
  2. Steele, Stephanie. “What is Banana Fiber and How do you make Textiles from it”. https://www.the-sustainable-fashion-collective.com/2019/06/03/what-is-banana-fibre-and-how-do-you-make-textiles-from-it#:~:text=Abaca%20(banana)%20fabric%20is%20believed,including%20Ecuador%20and %20Costa%20Rica.