With the cotton industry floundering in sustainability issues, it is surprising that viable alternatives continue to remain relatively unknown, or at the very least, unused. One such option is kenaf, a fiber I personally had only heard about recently.
While this material in textiles is not exactly a new idea (it’s use dates back as far as ancient Egypt- around 1,000 B.C.) it’s popularity has been slow to spread. However, the natural properties of the plant make it an option to consider for designers sourcing sustainable materials.
4 Reasons Kenaf is a Great Fabric for Sustainable Fashion
The kenaf plant grows extremely quickly. For us, this means there is far less danger of over-harvesting or driving it to extinction in order to keep up with production demands. When planted in locations that don’t freeze over, it can even be grown all year round.
Kenaf can be grown in many places all over the world, including throughout the United States, making it a prime candidate for use by local fiber and textile producers.
The carbon footprint left by the cultivation and processing of the fiber is nearly invisible. To grow, Kenaf is pretty low-maintenance: it needs very little water and almost no pesticides or fertilizer. It is biodegradable as well, and is used for this purpose in textiles and plastics. As an added bonus, the plant actively improves the areas it’s grown in; it absorbs more CO2 than either pine or rain forests (and could potentially produce ten to twenty times more fiber!)
Kenaf fibers have a long staple, meaning very fine and strong yarn can be spun. This makes for quality textiles. The hand of the resulting fabric is similar to linen (they come from the same plant family) albeit a bit coarser. Kenaf textiles are also naturally very absorbent, and even fire-retardant, making it especially ideal for outerwear or shoes.