Jute is a natural fibre that is widely used to make quality bags, rags and shoes. It is associated with the resurgence in popularity of the traditional espadrille shoes, once dubbed the “poor man’s shoes”.
Known also as the “golden fibre”, jute is 100% recyclable and entirely biodegradable, which makes it the fibre of the future. After cotton, it is the cheapest and most used fibre worldwide.
What is jute?
Jute is a very strong, long and soft vegetable fibre with a natural golden shine that exists in abundance in the Ganges Delta region. Jute’s thread — also known as canvas thread — is well known for being a great heat insulator due to its low thermal conductivity.
Moreover, it is extremely versatile, and widely used for making fashion goods such as bags and shoes, but also natural-looking carpets, drapes and furniture that add warm and earthly tones to a house.
A naturally thirsty plant, jute’s rainfall requirements are an annual average 150 cm, while it thrives in temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius with 90% humidity. For this reason, regions with hot and moist subtropical climates like India and Bangladesh are jute’s primary producers.
To make espadrilles, the jute plant must dry for 2-3 weeks and be wound into a ball. The fibres are then removed from the stem of the plant and braided into a strong rope, which basically forms the light, but solid espadrille wedge. It is then hand-moulded and pressed into the shape of a foot.
The history of jute
Jute has been an integral part of the Bengali culture for centuries and has been widely used to make clothes, rope and twine. In the 19th century, the British took an interest in jute and began importing it to Europe, where it was processed in mills in Dundee in Scotland.
Jute’s popularity declined in the 1970s when cheap synthetic fibres like nylon and polythene swamped the market. As a result, many jute farmers in Bangladesh ceased the production and burnt their crops as a reaction to the deteriorating prices.
However, in the period 2004-2010 there was a revived interest in strong and natural fibres which brought jute back to the markets. The price of raw jute has since consequently increased more than 500%.
Jute’s comeback has been linked to increasing global sustainability awareness and eco-friendly action. Besides being perfectly recyclable, the jute plant is also known for keeping the air fresh and clean by absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.