India, Brazil, Ecuador, China, Philippines, Indonesia.
Banana fibre for textile use is mainly cultivated from the non-fruiting variety known as Abaca, or ‘Manila Hemp’, but is also harvested from fruiting plants by farmers looking to reduce waste and increase income. Even still, most banana fibre goes to waste as the demand for it isn’t there yet.
The banana plant is a relatively low impact plant, the stalks renew themselves, and requires little water and fertiliser to grow. Like other bast fibres (linen and hemp), the banana fibre is collected from the outer cell layer or the plant’s stem. It is a very slow and manual process in comparison to other harvested crops. The stalks take up to 24 months to grow and are left to soak in local rivers to soften and allow for the long staple fibres to be teased out, which is known as retting and scraping.
The combination of coarse and fine soft fibres can be spun into a mono material or blended with other raw fibres to enhance its quality, and introduce new textures and attributes. Banana fibre is naturally heat resistant and is exceptionally strong, especially once spun and woven with other fibres.