Pinatex is an exciting new 100% sustainable leather alternative made from the fibres of pineapple leaves. Yes, a textile made out of pineapples might sound odd, or evoke questionable hemp comparisons, but the textile created by innovations company Ananas Anam is set to revolutionise the fashion industry. Unlike other leather alternatives which rely heavily on artificial processes and plastics, Pinatex is as breathable and malleable as leather. It is completely socially and environmentally sustainable and is changing the way buyers and designers make footwear and fashion accessories.
A by-product of a pineapple harvest, the textile itself is formed like felt; it is a non-woven mesh. Long fibres are extracted from pineapple leaves before they are cut up and layered. The ‘raw’ product has a similar appearance to canvas, but it is easily dyed and can be printed and treated to give different textures, it even realistically resembles leather. It is soft, flexible and breathable (unlike plastic alternatives) and comes in different weights or thickness according to its use, from 200gpsm to 600gpsm.
It was inspired by traditional ceremonial costumes made out of pineapple leaves worn in the Philippines, which is one of the world’s biggest producers of the fruit.
The best thing about Pinatex is that it is both environmentally and ethically sound. To make one square metre of Pinatex, 480 pineapple leaves are needed (each pineapple plant has between 30-40 leaves). Whilst this might sound like a lot, these leaves are normally left to rot following the harvest, thus the production of Pinatex requires no additional land.
The biomass not used from the pineapple leaves following fibre extraction can then be used or sold by the farmers as soil fertiliser. Pineapples are grown naturally in many countries south of the equator, including the Philippines, Brazil, Thailand, Kenya and Ghana. This extra income from by-products could seriously improve the lifestyle and economy of the farming industry in developing countries.
There is an increasing interest in sustainable consumerism which is most adeptly shown by the very sponsor of Pinatex- the Royal College of Art. As Dr Claire Pajaczkowska, professor at RCA, stated during Pinatex’s launch “5 years ago the Royal College of Art did not have a strong sustainability agenda, today it has a whole department… it is definitely the time for sustainability.”Many companies are turning away from quick fix tech fabrics as they hold no long-term business security, in part due to damage they inflict on the surrounding environment and increasing government sanctions. Brands including Puma and Camper have designed products using Pinatex, and some of their motivation is indisputably the financial benefit: it costs £18 per square metre compared to £20-30 for leather.
A spokesperson at PUMA stated the stated the company is “excited by the problems it could solve and possibilities for our business that it could open up.” Indeed, according to the creator Carmen Hijosa there is “a gap in the market between petroleum-based textiles and leather, which is the middle price point, and that is the gap that Piñatex the product is really seeking.” It holds the same flexibility and durability of leather in contrast to the quality of the cheaper plastic alternatives.
Furthermore, leather prices have been pushed up because there are fewer animals from which to make it, suggesting that Pinatex is genuinely economically viable, something which has put off the fashion world from investing in sustainable sources in the past.So what’s next for Pinatex? The material has been in development for nearly 10 years, and this process is ongoing, the producers aim to create “a stronger mesh and finishing that can be used for furnishings” in order to further expand its use in industry in the near future.Pinatex epitomises a new shift in the textile industry, and consumerism more generally, that Re-Vision embraces!