Piñatex: Innovative Leather-Like Textile Made From Pineapple Leaves

Piñatex is a leather-like textile made from pineapple leaves. Not to be confused with piña, which is both the Spanish word for pineapple and a silky yarn also derived from the leaves of that very fruit, this synthetic leather was created by Carmen Hijosa, a consultant in the Philippines leather goods industry who was unhappy with the standard of produced textiles and sought sustainable alternatives. Leather was becoming more and more scarce in the Philippines and the processing was devastating natural resources. It took Hijosa five years to develop Piñatex at the Royal College of Art in the Philippines back in the 1990s.


Piñatex Textiles: Source: Ecouterre.comPiñatex Textiles: Source: Ecouterre.com


In her own words: "I was looking for an alternative to leather...That was the beginning of my thinking... We...are an alternative...to leather and to petroleum-based textiles, which is sustainable and has a strong sociological and ecological background...There is a gap in the market between petroleum-based textiles and leather,...and that is the gap that Piñatex is really seeking."

What was the inspiration for Piñatex?

In the beginning, Hijosa's focus was to create an alternative to leather that looked just like it. She soon realized the new textile had only one function as far as appearances went, and that was to look just like itself and nothing else. She found inspiration in the traditional, embroidered apparel of her native land, particularly the Barong Tagalog, a thin, transparent embroidered men's garment worn over a shirt.

Locals have been using pineapple fibers for centuries to make non-woven clothng that has a texture similar to felt. These fibers are quite long and very strong and it was the realization that she could make a mesh with these fibers, which bonds without knitting or weaving, That was the breakthrough Hijosa needed to create Piñatex.


Pinatex Purse: Source: Neimiopiccolo.itPinatex Purse: Source: Neimiopiccolo.it


A environmentally friendly leather alternative

Due to the fact that Piñatex is made from leaves that are a byproduct of pineapple harvesting, this textile is both sustainable and less expensive than leather. Manufacturing involves cutting up the discarded fibers, layering and then processing them into a textile of varying densities. Via dyeing, printing and treating, the process can create diverse textures, and can also be adapted to convert the material into fertilizer to boost local economy.


Piñatex Products: Source: TheGuardian.comPiñatex Products: Source: TheGuardian.com


The average pineapple plant has between 30 and 40 leaves around it and about 480 leaves are needed to produce one square meter of medium weight Piñatex. Pineapples are in plentiful supply in countries such as: Brazil, Thailand, the Phiippines, Kenya, China and Ghana, creating a residue of wealth in unused natural material that can be recycled.

The future of Piñatex

As  of this writing, designers such as Ally Campino have utilized this material to make handbags. Sneaker giant,  Puma, has also created sample shoes using Piñatex. This new textile,  which bears a similarity to canvas, is also garnering interest within the accessories and upholstery markets. Accordnig to Hijosa: "We can make chairs, sofas and paneling. Eventually, this synthetic leather can be made into car interiors, even linings."

Here's to pineapples everywhere! (Clink of glass.)

Closing thoughts on pineapples:

When life gives you lemons, sell them and buy a pineapple. ~ David Turney

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