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Philippines to Move Wearable Fruit Fibers Mainstream With $1.2M R&D Facility

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It’s common knowledge that a healthy diet should include at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Does wearing them count?

Athletic giant Puma and Spanish footwear company Camper already partner with Pinatex, a leather alternative made from pineapple leaf fibers or piña, but the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is aiming to move sustainable materials made from tropical fruit byproducts into the mainstream.

Traditionally worn in the Philippines at weddings and formal events, clothing created from fabric produced using piña, banana and abaca could soon be more prominent, thanks to the recent opening of a 54 million peso ($1.2 million) research and development facility at DOST in the southeast city of Taguig.

Dubbed the Innovation Center for Yarns and Textiles (ICYT), scientists are hoping it will help regenerate the country’s ailing textile industry, as well as provide an environmentally friendly and affordable alternative to petroleum-based textiles. In 2012, the PTRI announced that banana plantations in the Philippines alone can generate more than 300,000 tons of fiber.

“We aim to make indigenous yarns accessible to our handloom weaving communities as well as commercial millers or knitters,” Celia Elumba, PTRI director, told press at the launch of the facility.

Senator Loren Legarda said promoting the use of tropical-fiber fabrics is a double whammy: not only preserving the country’s culture and heritage, but also supporting the agricultural sector.

Elumba revealed the PTRI has partnered with Power Fashion Inc., the parent company of Filipino clothing brands Unica Hija, Bayo and ViseVersa, to incorporate locally-produced tropical textiles in one of its capsule collections. In addition, the institute plans to work on upscaling the country’s natural dye production to complement the ICYT.

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