Plant Based Leather Alternative Innovators: Piñatex

Dr. Carmen Hijosa for Wired magazine in March 2016 (Credit: David Stewart)

Dr. Carmen Hijosa for Wired magazine in March 2016 (Credit: David Stewart)

A well-known tropical fruit has been quite the talk of the town in the fast changing world of fabric design. Among the latest fashion innovations, a plant based leather alternative called Piñatex has been developed by a company called Ananas Anam following seven years of extensive research and experimentation led by its founder Dr. Carmen Hijosa.

In the buildup to this new development, the processes of sourcing materials and testing of textiles, that led to the final production, took place throughout Spain, London, and the Philippines. With Ananas Anam's mission to encourage social and cultural development and contribute to lessening environmental impact, they’ve truly invented something that could potentially solve major issues that have detrimentally impacted the fashion industry.

Dr. Carmen Hijosa

As an expert in leather, Dr. Carmen Hijosa already had extensive knowledge on the damaging effects of leather on our environment and the people who produce it. After discovering how unsustainable leather was, she traveled to the Philippines to discuss the environmental and ethical harm by leather production with their industries. It was during that time that the proverbial light bulb switched on. Upon the observation that the Philippines is one of the largest exporters of pineapple in the world, she noticed that pineapple leaves were being left out as waste from the pineapple harvest. Here began the experimentation with pineapple leaves to invent one of fashion’s most innovative textiles,

Piñatex. A new plant based leather alternative that requires no extra land and water for production, as it comes directly from the pineapple harvest. The pineapple leaves are put through a process called decortication to extract fibers and the byproduct of this production becomes biomass which can be utilized as a biofuel or biofertilizer. The next steps include an industrial process to create non-woven textiles that are then taken to a textile finishing company in Spain. No harsh chemicals are used and the process is seamless and eco-friendly, although the finished textile is not biodegradable, this is a goal which Ananas Anam are working towards achieving in the near future.

Socially Conscious Leather 

In addition to being an eco-friendly and animal-friendly textile, Piñatex is also created by socially conscious efforts. Dr. Hijosa, alongside her company Ananas Anam, has developed close ties to pineapple farmers across the Philippines and greatly supports the business that these farmers provide. In order to expand on social impact, the company plans to connect with more rural pineapple farmers from developing countries to join Piñatex. An interdependent relationship between farmers and the company supplies a smooth production of this innovative textile. Ananas Anam provides economic growth for rural farmers, while the company is continually able to utilize pineapple fiber as a textile that is changing the fashion industry.

The company is headquartered in London, and Piñatex is now available for commercial purchase by brands with aligned conscious-production values. For those who are curious about obtaining the product to try for themselves, several ethical brands have already taken steps and adopted this textile to be used in their next lines. Even larger scale brands such as Puma and Camper have created shoe prototypes with Piñatex. So far the textile has been used to make bags, watches, shoes, and even furniture. It seems that the opportunities for the use of this fabric are endless.

This exciting new alternative to leather is not only as durable as some animal derived leathers but in some instances even represents a very similar look to it. The plant-based leather alternative comes in a range of six colors including Charcoal, Brown, Natural, Paprika, Gold and Silver. Each color is produced from low impact dyes, and Ananas Anam plans to release more colors in limited edition. Piñatex is certified by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the largest animal welfare organization in the world and is recognized for their efforts to exclude animal skin and all animal products.

The news of this innovative textile is fastly spreading as more people become conscious of their role as consumers. Soon, there will be less and less demand for animal skin to be used as a staple in people’s wardrobes. The number of alternative textiles to animal skin products is continually growing as demand for it rises. In the next few years, we expect that there will be a decline in animal skin and leather sales as more people join in the movement to be conscious consumers. With companies such as Ananas Anam coming out with innovative leather-like materials such as Piñatex, there will be no need to wear animals.