Awen Delaval and his 30-strong team at Samatoa were recently rewarded for their pioneering work in developing a silk-like fabric made entirely from lotus stems.
The London-based Institution of Engineering and Technology announced their 2016 Innovation Awards winners on November 16, with Samatoa picking up the prize for sustainability. The judges were impressed with its zero-waste target, a toxic chemical-free production process and job creation.
“It’s a great recognition for all the spinners, weavers and technicians of Samatoa who are working hard [for] many years to provide this unique fibre,” said Delaval.
Even though Samatoa only commercialised its lotus fibre in 2012, it has already been recognised by UNESCO and by the French government’s “France commits to the South” program, which seeks to reward social innovators from across the globe.
The lotus stems come from farms to the south of Siem Reap in Battambang. The smooth microfibre is created through a process of threading and spinning that transforms 40,000 individual stems into one metre of fabric.
Most of the fabric is sold outside of Cambodia, to concept stores and designers in Hong Kong, France, the US and Japan, though Samatoa also has a small design shop in Siem Reap.
Samatoa will soon collaborate with Australian artist and costume designer Clementine Robertson. The resulting suits will be showcased in exhibitions and museums around the world to help raise awareness of and inspire others to use more ecologically sound vegetable fibres.