The fashion industry is moving towards a transformation and its pendulum is swinging towards natural fibres. The industry is moving away from the petrochemical-based fibres due to their rising cost and irreversible damage to the planet. Further, fibres like cotton is also a resource intensive material and causes high damage to the environment. As a result, more and more fashion brands are seeking sustainable alternatives to such fibres. Banana fibre is one such alternative, which is gaining traction these days.

Also known as the Musa Fibre, Banana fibre is one of the strongest natural fibres. It is biodegradable and is made from the stem of the banana tree. The main characteristic of the fibre is that it is incredibly durable. The fibre is mainly composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin and consists of thick-walled cell tissue, bonded by natural gums. The fibre from Banana can be used to make different textiles of varied weights and thickness. It depends from which part of the stem fibre is extracted. The inner sheaths give softer fibres while thicker, sturdier fibres come from outer sheaths.

The most important of the musa species is Musa Textile Nee. The abaca fibres, also known as the Manila Hemp, is extracted from this member of banana genus. Making of fibres from banana stem dates back to 13thcentury in Japan. Unfortunately, with the growing popularity of cotton and silk, banana fibre had to take a back seat. However, the fibre is again making inroads in the industry.

Fabrics made from the banana fibre are soft and supple as well as breathable being natural absorbents. It has a natural shine and thus it is often compared to silk. The banana fibre clothing is eco-friendly and does not require any chemicals in making. Thus, it is also seen as a sustainable alternative to cotton and silk. Another traditional use of the coarse abaca fibres is making cords or ropes used in ships’ rigging. The fibre is pulped and processed to make tea bags, vacuum bags, casing for sausages, cigarette papers, high quality writing paper, Japanese Yen Notes, sanitary napkins, etc. Engineers have developed a mixture of polypropylene thermoplastic and abaca yarn that is used in automobile components. It is also used to make handicrafts like bags, carpets, clothing, and furniture.

The soft inner fibres from the abaca leaf stalk are used for making delicate, lightweight yet strong fabrics. These fabrics are used in Philippines for clothing, hats and shoes making.

India has a major cultivation of banana fibre. In southern India, the fibre is extracted from the leaves of the banana plant and then blended with cotton to make synthetic and other lightweight fabrics. In India, the hand driven process of banana fibre extraction is now changing with the invention of Banana Fibre Separator Machine developed by Tiruchirappalli Regional Engineering College - Science & Technology Entrepreneurs Park (TREC-STEP).

Banana stems and leaves, which were once considered as an agricultural waste and a nuisance for the farmers, is now a raw material for the good quality silk grade fibre yarn. The fibre has indeed brought an innovation in the field of sustainable textile fabrics.

Author's Bio: 

Mayank Mohindra is an author on apparel, fashion, and textile industry.His articles are based on latest apparel industry news, textile news and/or analysis of the dynamics of global apparel trade, and fashion industry.