• Gabriella Tallafus

Textiles Turn a New Leaf, a Pineapple Leaf that is!

Updated: Feb 21

What does a Piña colada, a bag, and shoes have in common? *Drum Roll*…. PINEAPPLE!

Yes you read that correctly, not only does pineapple provide endless nutritional benefits but now you can actually wear it.

Piñatex is an innovative textile made from cellulose fibres extracted from pineapple leaves and offers a natural and more sustainable alternative to leather. Guided by the principles of the circular economy, this material maintains a low environmental footprint throughout its life cycle and enhances the well-being of the people who make it.

Budding Idea

Piñatex, or more commonly known as Pineapple leather, is the brainchild and passion project of social entrepreneur Dr. Carmen Hijosa. From her time working in the Philippines during the 1990s, the leather goods expert quickly realised that mass leather production, with its chemical tanning processes, was causing irrefutable harm to the environment and workers.

Founder of Piñatex

She knew that the value of a product does not lie solely in its economic value but also its environmental and social value. Unimpressed by synthetic alternatives to leather, Hijosa began investigating natural alternatives. She hoped to design a material with a process that would enhance the well-being of the planet through the entire life cycle of the products.

Inspired by local Filipino garments that use pineapple fibres, Hijosa began researching how such a resource could be utilised on a global scale. Pineapple “Piña” cloth has been cultivated in the Philippines for centuries and thanks to Hijosa and her team, it is experiencing a resurgence in the commercial fashion industry.

Turning a New Leaf

After 7 years of development, in 2015 Piñatex was patented under Anas Ananam, (a proudly a certified B Corp) and was finally ready to hit the market!

This textile is driven by the principles of a circular economy meaning waste and pollution are deliberately designed out of the life-cycle of a product through restorative and regenerative design. The Global pineapple industry generates over 76 million tons of pineapple waste each year. Piñatex utilizes this waste which would otherwise be burned or left to rot. Therefore as a bi-product, it requires no additional environmental resources and can reduce such waste (we are off to a pretty good start already).

From Fruit to Fashion

The process begins in the Philippines, where pineapples are produced in abundance. Pineapple leaves which are leftover from the pineapple harvest are collected. Once washed and dried naturally by the sun, the fibres are purified to produce a fluff-like material called PALF.

Step 1-4 of Piñatex Life Cycle
Life Cyle of Piñatex : Part 1

The fibre undergoes a mechanical process to become a non-woven mesh called Piñafelt. This fabric is then shipped to Spain for finishing where the material is coated and dyed using pigments certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard and can finally don the status of Piñatex!

Life Cyle of Piñatex : Part 2

Why Do We Need a Natural Alternative?

Leather is a taboo topic but I think it is safe to say that the pro-leather argument has been exhausted. Animal Leather is associated with deforestation, water and land overuse, eutrophication, and violation of animal rights -Facts are facts (unless you're Donald Trump).

So I think the better question is why do we need natural leather alternatives? Nowadays Vegan leather is thriving. Kering's Sustainability Report states that the vegan-leather production can be up to a third lower than real leather in terms of their environmental impact. However despite ethics being at their core, synthetic alternatives are far from perfect. Sadly, synthetic substitutes are toxic to both produce and dispose of.

The two primary types of synthetic leather are Polyurethane (PU) and Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Both are made from plastic and have been criticized for their carbon intensive footprint and lack of biodegradability. Their chemical intensive manufacturing processes results in the emission of toxic chemicals which harm those who wear the garments and the planet.

Why We Love It

Piñatex mimics the look of leather and rivals its quality meaning we don't have to compromise our moral values for style! This durable, breathable, and flexible fabric is loved not only by us here at Fullest Media but by big name brands such as Hugo Boss, H&M and Andrea Kader.

Brands that use Piñatex in their garments
Brand Collections X Piñatex

The positives do not stop there folks. It also provides a second source of income for farmers and Biogas, a renewable energy, is a bi-product of Piñatex – who knew a pineapple could have so many uses!

It's not wonder why Dr. Hijosa won the InnovateUK's Women in Innovation Awards 2016 for her sustainable textile which has becomes a pioneer for sustainable textile alternatives in fashion.

Final Thoughts

Pineapple Leather is a material of the future. Its endless benefits both socially and environmentally and its circular approach, gives this innovative material a fresh perspective on textile design. We need to continue to invest in regenerative design so that textiles do not simply reduce negative impacts but make a positive change. It is imperative that we find sustainable alternatives so we can look, feel and do good!