STAND Up!: Organic materials turned into sustainable clothes, a brand-new revolution coming up in Lebanon
Did you ever wonder that making clothes from banana pseudo-stems was possible? Are you surprised when knowing that creating apparel from 100% natural hemp products is already a reality? Those are precisely some of the ideas behind projects trained in Lebanon under the STAND Up! project, a cohort of 22 green projects in the textile and fashion industry that are working hard on eco-innovative ideas to make the future of fashion sustainable.
“Our planet, community and skin are suffocating. Our skin is the biggest organ in our body, on a daily basis we wear clothes that do not allow our skin to breathe”, says Jessika Nicolas, one out of the three Lebanese young women behind the start-up Naked. With different areas of expertise, these three entrepreneurs had the vision of defying the idea that eco-conscious clothing should be simple and basic by creating natural hemp products with an artistic natural Lebanese touch. These initiatives bring value chains driven by alternative, low-impact fibers or recycled materials, such as it is indicated in the STAND Up! publication used for the trainings.
“The sessions under STAND Up! project, funded by ENI CBC MED, opened our eyes, it supported our understanding of eco-design and its applications in the fashion industry”
They believed that a healthy and sustainable fashion should make anybody feel and look good in their skin and eliminate all factors of toxicity from textile production. That’s why they use 100% natural hemp products in the creation of their products of textile, clothing and undergarment. The same idea had Georges El Tawil, an Engineering and Economics entrepreneur that launched Lebamoz. In this case, in collaboration with local, rural authorities, communities and banana farmers, Lebamoz aims to collect and process wasted banana stems into fibers, yarn and eventually fabrics.
Thus, we appreciate here two brand-new revolutionary ideas transforming textile reality in Lebanon thanks to natural materials. In some way, start-ups facing environmental challenges not only tackle planet-health problems, but also fight against rural unemployment and absence of locally sourced raw materials. “The sessions under STAND Up! project opened our eyes, it supported our understanding of eco-design and its applications in the fashion industry”, states El Tawil.
The training sessions, which were conducted by the Lebanese partner Berytech, have been key to support them in the development of their green business model (GBM). In the framework of The Switchers Support Programme, developed by the Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC) under the Switchmed methodology, 42 participants could follow high-level training sessions to serve entrepreneurs, small business and start-ups, with the aim of growing and reaching a higher revenue.
“Most importantly, trainings put us in contact with experts and entrepreneurs who share the same visions”, shares El Tawil. In words of Jessika Nicolas, the key takeaways from the training sessions were learnings about the newest most innovative trends in the textile industry, the key features of a circular economy through design optimization and pitching skills and guidelines. “After going through the Berytech incubator program, at Naked we have started with the in-house production of the first concept product”, she says.
Environmental and social issues solved through sustainable entrepreneurship
In Lebanon there is a huge agricultural sector producing hemp, a plant that is underrated in its benefits. Therefore, in the case of Naked they are introducing a new way of using this natural-based product which is considered as waste and burnt adding more pollution problems to the country. “Due to the current placement of our base product in Lebanon, which is mainly in rural and underdeveloped areas, a social engagement is guaranteed especially for women regardless of their age, status, and education”, says Jessika.
Because of the current economic situation in Lebanon, local market introduced huge changes to their purchasing habits and started indulging in a more circular model. It’s also the example of Lebamoz, a project that has already made verbal agreements with local banana farmers. They are now looking for locations to set-up shops and they designed and ordered their first fiber decorticator. In the core of their operations, there is also a goal of empowering local and rural communities even though the financial meltdown Lebanon is living.
In the case of Lebamoz, going from pseudo-stem to fiber is a matter of capital investment. For Naked, even though there are already some companies in Lebanon recycling fabric in their production process, as they are in the ideation stage they still have time to find entrepreneurship balance and technical constraints related to machinery construction in order to lower their costs and to make the process in-house rather than buying end products.