How to

28 August 2017

Sicilian Orange Rinds Being Used to Produce Clothes

Every day someone seems to find something new to make clothes out of. We’ve had milk, wood and spider silk all emerge as apparently suitable materials for the manufacture of these garments, and now the rinds of Sicilian oranges have joined that list.

The idea was born back in 2011 when design student Adriana Santonocito decided she wanted to make sustainable textiles from what was bountiful in her home city of Catania. During her dissertation, she posed the question of whether a luxurious silk foulard could be made from citrus by-products that would normally be thrown away, and thus her attention turned to the Sicilian oranges.

As a fruit that is definitely in abundance on the Mediterranean island, Santonocito realised she was onto something. With thousands of tonnes of citrus fruits juiced there every year, she knew there had to be a way for the rinds to go from being a waste product to something beneficial for the larger community. After several experiments in her university’s laboratories, she got the answer she was looking for.

Aware that cellulose could already be taken from orange rinds, Santonocito found that through the use of chemical re-agents, they could also be manipulated into yarn. Once that was achieved, she also discovered they could be dyed and blended with other clothing fibres like cotton and polyester to become suitable for use in manufacturing various garments.

Clothing made from these orange rinds is much more viable than some of the other organic methods we’ve discussed because it utilises existing waste products and turns them into something useful. Orange Fiber, the company that Santonocito set up with her colleague Enrica Arena, receive their rinds for free from a local juice-processing plant which would otherwise have thrown them away. Although this means that their business doesn’t work all year round – the juice-maker is only functional for so many months – the orange rind is easily stored for later use once the process of turning it into cellulose has been carried out.

Santonocito and Arena’s work has recently come to light following their collaboration with Italian fashion label Salvatore Ferragamo who used the company’s textiles in their spring-summer collection.  The label is the first to employ Orange Fiber’s fabrics in their clothing, but the publicity their new line offers means it’s likely to not be the last.

With the need for sustainability so strong these days, the work that these two women are doing is incredibly important for the future of the clothing industry and is likely to spur other inventive solutions for utilising waste products. We’ve come to accept that clothing can be made out of so much more than you’d expect, so in our eyes anything is possible. We’ll just have to see whether the fibres from these orange rinds can be turned into something useful for more cold-weather related clothing.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. His love for cold weather sports and hiking in the winter gives him the enthusiasm for writing about keeping warm.