Abaca fabric, often referred to as "Manila hemp," is a remarkable and versatile textile derived from the fibers of the Abacá plant, native to the Philippines. Renowned for its exceptional strength, durability, and eco-friendly attributes, Abacá fabric holds a unique place in the world of sustainable textiles.

Derived from the robust fibers of the Abacá plant native to the Philippines, stands out for its exceptional strength, flexibility, and natural luster. It surpasses other natural fibers in strength, making it ideal for applications requiring resilience. With inherent water resistance and breathability, Abaca fabric is adaptable for diverse uses, from textiles to ropes. Its eco-friendly nature, derived from the plant's sustainability and biodegradability, aligns with environmental consciousness. Additionally, the fabric's low maintenance and cultural significance contribute to its appeal in fashion, home decor, and industrial sectors, making Abaca a sought-after material for various applications.


History of Abacá Fabric

Abaca fabric has a centuries-old history rooted in the Philippines, where the indigenous use of the Abacá plant's strong fibers for textiles and ropes dates back generations. During the Spanish colonial period, Abacá gained commercial significance, becoming a major export for ship rigging due to its strength and resistance to saltwater. The 20th century saw a decline in demand with the advent of synthetic fibers, but a revival occurred in the late century, driven by a growing interest in sustainable and natural materials. Today, Abaca fabric is used globally in fashion, home furnishings, crafts, and industry, with the Philippines remaining a key producer. The cultural significance of Abaca and its eco-friendly properties contribute to its continued relevance in contemporary applications.



Abaca fabric has various uses due to its unique properties, which include strength, durability, and resistance to saltwater damage. Some common uses of Abaca fabric include:

  • Rope and Twine: Abacá fibers are known for their strength and resistance to deterioration in saltwater. As a result, Abacá is often used to make ropes and twines, particularly for marine and fishing applications.
  • Textiles: Abacá fibers are also used to produce textiles, which can be woven into fabrics. Abaca textiles are valued for their strength and durability, making them suitable for items such as bags, clothing, and accessories.
  • Paper Products: Abacá pulp is used in the production of specialty papers. Abaca paper is known for its strength and is commonly used for teabags, currency notes, and other specialty paper products.
  • Furniture and Home Decor: Abacá fibers are sometimes used to weave furniture, mats, and home decor items. The natural color and texture of Abacá make it a popular choice for creating aesthetically pleasing and durable pieces.  

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process of Abacá fabric begins with the cultivation of Abacá plants in tropical regions, primarily the Philippines, followed by harvesting and stripping the outer leaves to extract the fibers. After separation and decortication to remove impurities, the fibers undergo cleaning and drying processes before being baled for storage. The dried Abaca fibers are then spun into yarn, which is woven into fabric using either traditional or modern methods. Finishing treatments, such as bleaching or dyeing, may be applied, and the final product undergoes cutting and sewing if intended for garments or accessories. Throughout the process, quality control measures are implemented to ensure the resulting Abaca fabric meets specified standards, with a growing emphasis on sustainable practices in response to environmental concerns.


Environmental Properties

  • Renewable Resource: Abacá is derived from the leaves of the Abacá plant (Musa textilis), a type of banana plant. The plant is known for its rapid growth and ability to be harvested multiple times throughout its relatively short lifespan, making it a renewable resource.
  • Biodegradability: Abacá fibers are biodegradable, meaning they can naturally break down over time without causing harm to the environment. This is in stark contrast to synthetic materials that often contribute to long-lasting pollution.
  • Low Environmental Impact: The cultivation and processing of Abacá typically have a lower environmental impact compared to some other fiber crops. Abacá plants are hardy and can thrive in diverse ecological conditions, reducing the need for extensive agricultural inputs.


Brands Using Abaca Fabric

1. CAMLU: a fashion brand accessible exclusively through its Instagram platform, CAMLU was founded by creative director Luis Espiritu and fashion designer Camille Villanueva as a response to the pandemic's impact on sewers and makers. Embracing the principles of slow fashion, CAMLU utilizes precious textiles entirely handmade by communities across the country, including a significant focus on the use of Abaca fabric. Their resort pieces, ranging from dresses to tops and tunics, not only showcase traditional embroidery but also prominently feature Abaca and woven fabrics, offering a distinctive blend of comfort and sartorial style.  

2. Filip + Inna: Lenora Cabili, the founder of the sustainable local label Filip + Inna, not only shares a profound connection with traditional craftsmanship but also exemplifies a commitment to eco-conscious practices. Collaborating with 22 Philippine indigenous groups, Lenora transforms modern-day clothing by skillfully incorporating traditional touches and, notably, utilizing Abaca fabric. By embracing Abaca, a sustainable and versatile material, Lenora not only honors indigenous craftsmanship but also pioneers a path towards responsible fashion, showcasing how the intertwining of traditional and contemporary elements can distinctly define Filipino style while championing ecological consciousness.


Manufacturers Using Abaca Fabric

1. HerMin Textile: HerMin Textile, founded in 1976, is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of producing sustainable and functional fabrics. The company upholds its commitment through initiatives like the "The Natural Laboratory" project, where they continuously push the boundaries of natural fibers, aiming to transfer functional attributes into fabrics in the most sustainable manner. HerMin Textile integrates Abaca fabric into its innovative approach. The incorporation of BNS Bouncy Technology allows Cotton, Tencel®, and Modal® to achieve stretch-ability without using Lycra® or spandex. Furthermore, fabrics dyed through the proprietary EZ Dye Technology not only exhibit sustainability benefits but also contribute to environmental conservation by saving more than 80% of steam + water, 70% Alkali + Salt, and 50% or more dyestuff. This comprehensive approach underscores HerMin Textile's dedication to sustainable practices, incorporating Abaca and advanced technologies to redefine the landscape of eco-friendly fabric production.


News and Updates on Abaca Fabric

Bananatex Crafts Compostable Jerseys from Abacá Banana Plants

Bananatex has recently developed a biodegradable lightweight jersey fabric by extracting fibers from the stalks of Abacá banana plants, a material shortlisted in the material innovation category of Dezeen Awards 2023. At the end of its life cycle, the fabric, Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold, can be composted and biodegrades within 10 weeks in industrial composts and 16 weeks in marine water, showcasing a commitment to environmental sustainability. Additionally, Bananatex is actively working towards closing the product's technical cycle by implementing fabric recycling processes.

Where Abaca Fabric Can Be Sourced