Developed by Carmen Hijosa, the Piñatex, made from pineapple leaf fibers, is an ecological alternative to animal leather.
The pineapple leather has already attracted nearly 400 brands of ready-to-wear, furniture and leather goods including Lancel, Puma and Hugo Boss.
A polluting industry
Its creator, Carmen Hijosa worked as a consultant in the world of animal leather. While traveling, she faced the ecological and human problems that this industry generates: use of carcinogenic solvents such as formaldehyde and heavy metals such as chrome, all of which can cause problems when they end up in wastewater, on top of excessive consumption of water… An ecological disaster for the developing countries which concentrate 80% of the workshops of skin transformation.
Prior to their closure in 2017, tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, dumped 21,000 cubic meters of toxic waste into the river per day. It has been classified by Blacksmith Institute, an American NGO specializing in environmental issues, as the fifth most polluted on the planet.
An ecological and social approach
In the Philippines, Carmen Hijosa discovers in 2008 the baron tagalog, a traditional tunic made of woven pineapple leaves. Immediately seduced, she began to develop a material from the fibers of the exotic fruit. Carmen did not have a science background and therefore decided to study textiles. In 2014, at 62, Carmen gained a PhD in Textiles from the Royal College of Art, London. Finally she managed to transform pineapple leaves into a material that look similar to that of animal leather and now runs her startup Ananas Anam.
The company is part of an ecological approach, while having a positive social impact for pineapple producers. After harvesting the fruit, the pineapple leaves are left uncultivated or simply burned. For Piñatex, farmers cut the best leaves, giving them an additional source of income. The rejections of the production process of this vegetable leather can be transformed into biomass, reinjected into local agriculture.
This year, the company, which works with five agricultural cooperatives in the Philippines and indirectly employs about a hundred farmers, is thinking of approaching growers in Costa Rica.