BANANATEX WITH QWSTION’S CHRISTIAN KAEGI
By Francine Heath
At QWSTION, a desire to create original sustainable solutions works in perfect harmony with Swiss modernist design. The brand launched in 2008 with the aim of designing an everyday bag that could be carried straight from a bicycle commute into a business meeting. Today, its bigger goal of full circularity is guided by a deep respect for the wellbeing of our planet, animals and humans. Its team continues to innovate, explore and develop prototypes at the Zürich studio, where every fine detail is eco-considered, right down to natural wax coatings and recyclable aluminium hardware.
Inspired by the brand’s commitment and unwavering curiosity, we spoke to co-founder and creative director, Christian Kaegi to find out more about the QWSTION’s textile testing and advancements, including Bananatex® (the world’s first technical fabric made from banana fibre) and the latest organic cotton BioLight material that’s durable, water-proof and featherweight.
How would you describe QWSTION to someone who is new to the brand?
QWSTION is about developing sustainable and flexible solutions for mobility. All of our bags come with multiple carrying options to adapt to your daily needs and pursuits – be that business, leisure or travel. As a premium brand positioned between fashion und function, we want our products to be durable and practical companions making your life easier. Our collections are timeless and evolve continuously. Reinventing the bag may be difficult – but enhancing it is not. Improving our products is an ongoing process we pursue with great passion.
What first prompted the desire to develop alternatives to synthetic materials?
Why are the vast majority of backpacks made from environmentally harmful fibres? The answer is simple: it’s cheaper – largely due to the fact that fewer humans are involved in the process of making synthetic textiles than in that of their plant-based counterparts. This leads to another pertinent question: Is it better to prioritise consumer accessibility via a low price point, or to offer a steady source of income to a greater number of people? The complexity of tackling this challenge is enormous, which has motivated us all the more to find solutions.
Could you tell us about some of the solutions you’ve discovered so far?
Since the beginning of QWSTION almost a decade ago, we’ve been exploring ways to create bags made from renewable resources – ones which are just as functional as they are sustainable. After years of testing natural alternatives to synthetic textiles, we achieved our goal of using only natural, organically grown fibres for the shell fabrics with our 100% organic cotton. The key was to develop a way to manipulate soft, flexible cotton fibres to create strong, durable bags. But we knew we could push ourselves even further, so we continued our research.
In 2015 we first came across a plant of the Banana tree family known locally as ”Banana Hemp” or “Abacá”, and its potential as the next step in our sustainability mission was immediately apparent. The inherent properties align with our commitment to environmental, economic and social sustainability. Cultivated within a natural ecosystem of sustainable mixed agriculture and forestry, Abacá is sturdy and self-sufficient, requiring no pesticides or extra water. These qualities have allowed it to contribute to reforestation in areas of the Philippines once eroded by palm plantations, whilst enhancing the economic prosperity of its farmers.
What are you most proud of when it comes to the development of Bananatex®?
Even though we are a small company with limited resources compared to other global players in the fashion industry, we have been able to develop plastic-free functional materials and build sustainable supply chains simply by hard work, caring and questioning the norm.
What’s different about the BioLight collection?
Our new line of lightweight bags, the BioLight collection, showcases the best of our technical and sustainable material developments so far, leaving the lightest possible footprint on the environment.
Our continued explorations in material development have resulted in a completely new range of lightweight bags – made from Bananatex® (straps) combined with a pioneering technical fabric made for minimal weight and minimal impact: BioLight. Made from plants and leather-free, the new line integrates our learnings from our Minimal Collection – offering a distinct alternative to the synthetic petroleum-based materials lightweight bags tend to be constructed from.
What inspired the beautiful names of the colourways in the BioLight collection?
Each of the three bag styles comes in three colourways inspired by lightweight creatures of the sky: Raven, Heron and Robin – as captured by Zurich photographer Yves Bachmann in a dramatically contrasting editorial shoot.
How important is durability of materials and versatility of products to you?
Timeless design, function and durability are the three central pillars of the QWSTION brand and form an important part of everything we do.
What’s next for QWSTION?
We want to keep on questioning the norm and keep on exploring new ways to carry.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
All images kindly provided by QWSTION.
Editorial BioLight shots by Yves Bachmann.
Francine Heath is a contributor to THEFORWARDLAB. London-based product editor and sustainable fashion journalist who advocates conscious consumerism and loves discovering those who are determined to drive change and create a better fashion future. She’s previously written articles for British Vogue, Eco-Age, Refinery 29, Mr Porter and i-D.