Vanesa Tavira Bartsch, Translation: Marina Päsler

Piñatex is sustainable, enables an additional income for farming communities and as a by-product uses up the waste of an existing process.

In the 1990s Spanish designer Carmen Hijosa worked as a consultant for the Philippine leather export market. Gaining insight she was shocked by the low quality leather and the impact it’s production had on the ­environment. She made a decision and retired from her job to start the search for a leather substitute.  Inspired by the “Barong Tagalog“, a traditional Philippine garment made from pineapple fibres, Carmen Hijosa started concentrating on that very fruit. Compared to other plants it was more flexible and sturdy enough to survive the production process.  Parallel to earning her PhD at the renowned Royal College of Art in London she developed Piñatex  and patented it. Today this fabric is sold worldwide by her company Ananas Anam. The Piñatex  - journey starts on the Philippines, where the pineapple leaves (a by-product from the fruit harvest which otherwise would be thrown away or burned) are collected. There are no additional  farming grounds, pesticides or water needed. After the fibres are seperated from the leaves the waste can be used as a fertiliser which benefits the farmers and creates another source of income. The extracted fibres are processed into a substrate which then is sent to Spain where Piñatex is made.

Piñatex  is a light and durable material used in fashion and interior designs worldwide. Liselore Frowijn, Hugo Boss, Edun and Matea Benedetti have already used Piñatex to manufacture bags, shoes and jackets. The Hilton Bankside Hotel has bought furniture with  Piñatex  covers. It is also used for dogcollars. Currently Ananas Anam are working on their fabric to make it even sturdier so it can be used in cars. Genuine leather is getting more expensive due to higher demand and lesser animals to take it from.  Piñatex   fills the gap in the market between real  leather and mineral oil based textiles (nylon, polyester, elastane and acryl), which are basically plastic. These fabrics are not biodegradable, using up limited resources and are made with chemicals which are bad for your and the manufacturers’ health.

Also in leather manufacturing chemicals like formaldehyde and heavy metals such as chrome are used, which can be very dangerous when added to the sewage unfiltered. Just like the meat industry leather manufacturing causes a giant carbon footprint. So both alternatives to Piñatex  are bad for the environment and the workers who get in contact with the fabrics and chemicals. Even though mineral oil based leather substitutes are still well loved because of their cheapness, customers are buying more consciously and demanding new alternatives.

Optically Piñatex  looks like real leather. The texture feels soft but still natural, with ridges and bumps which come with the natural fibres. At the beginning the products may seem a little stiff but soften up with use – just not too much to lose their shape. Piñatex is made in different colours and surface structures. It can be used in different design concepts and be stitched on, sewn on and embossed.

All in all Piñatex  is a revolutionary and future-oriented product.