Are Pineapple Leaves the Future of Sustainable Fashion?
Exploring the Possibilities of Piñatex
By Isobel Miles
Gone are the days when sustainably-made fabrics were relegated to a niche area of the fashion industry. Today, a new wave of innovation has caught the attention of high street giants around the world. With events such as the Copenhagen Fashion Summit back in May focusing their efforts in propelling the world of fashion towards a sustainable future, the Summit drew global attention to its cause. Importantly, it included an Innovation Forum: a platform to broadcast industry advancements and offer sustainable solutions to fashion’s major players.
Enter Piñatex. Featured at the forum, this innovative textile is a revolutionary leather substitute created from the fibre of cast-off pineapple leaves—the brainchild of the brilliant Dr. Carmen Hijosa. Motivated by witnessing the detrimental environmental impact that her work in the leather export industry was creating in the Philippines, she founded her company, Ananas Anam to provide an alternative. Following seven years spent in research and development, Piñatex was her answer.
Dedicated to the waste-reduction principles of the circular economy, Ananas Anam’s production of Piñatex is renowned for its low ecological footprint. The pineapple leaves used are a byproduct of the pineapple agricultural industry that would otherwise be burnt or discarded. As a result, no additional resources (water, land, etc.) are needed for their production. The long fibres from the pineapple leaves are extracted, then processed to form a non-woven mesh that ultimately forms the basis of the final textile. Its positive social impact is an absolute priority: Ananas Anam maintains partnerships with farming cooperatives within the pineapple-growing communities to strengthen the local economy.
Cult sustainable fashion brands such as HFS Collective and Edun are early adopters of Piñatex, incorporating the material into their designs for accessories and clothing. However, it is the recent launch of the H&M 2019 Conscious Exclusive collection that has catapulted Piñatex into the spotlight. Strongly committed to sustainability, H&M emphasized the key pieces of the collection as those containing the faux-leather pineapple byproduct: a bold jacket, bag and cowboy boots embellished with silver Piñatex.
With its creation of this collection that is accessible, sustainable and fashionable, H&M has set an impressive precedent, and shows no signs of slowing down: the company has pledged a goal to source all of its materials sustainably by 2030. It doesn’t stop there. Its portfolio of sustainable textiles is expanding to also include Orange Fiber, a silk-like fabric created from orange peel, and Bloom, a foam crafted from algae biomass. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the high street follows suit. The future may well lie in pineapple leaves.