Piñatex

How pineapple leaves are a green alternative to leather

25 JANUARY 2017,
From pineapple leaves to textile
From pineapple leaves to textile

First, it was known for the famous Barong Tagalog. This time, pineapple leaves have proven they make a good alternative to animal leather, too. Piñatex is the new textile which quality is at par with that of animal hides.

Almost two years ago, I wrote about piña fabric, a clothing material made from the fibers of pineapple leaves. Even as the natural textile continues to make a statement in the international fashion, new discoveries on the pineapple leaf fibers have come up. It was found to be a viable source of leather that can well replace animal hides.

Dr. Carmen Hijosa and piñatex

When Spanish scientist and designer, Dr. Carmen Hijosa, first came to the Philippines, she got interested on a certain leaf, which was later identified as that of the pineapple. While working as a consultant to the Product Development and Design Center in the Philippines she started making a study on the qualities of the plant. And she finally discovered that it has the finesse and strength that can be utilized as a new textile material. She found that the fibers of the pineapple leaves make a sustainable alternative to animal leather and petroleum-based textiles.

Hijosa called the new fabric, piñatex. Piña is the Spanish and Philippine term from pineapple, and tex stands for textile. She then presented her discovery at the Ph.D graduate exhibition at the Royal College of Art in London in December 2014. Since then, Hijosa’s company has been producing and distributing the natural textile for shoes, bags, seat coverings, accessories, and other furnishings.

Pineapple leaves take its usefulness to higher level

Because of the increasing requirement for more pineapple leaves and her desire to help the local pineapple farmers, Dr. Hijosa met up with the Philippine’s Secretary of Agriculture, Emmanuel Piñol for possible coordination. They discussed the great potential of the pineapple fabric and its benefits to the local farmers.

The Agriculture Secretary saw that such a public-private sector coordination could greatly help the small-scale pineapple farmers in the country. He considers the around 44,000 hectares of land planted to pineapple in the Philippines. Instead of just leaving the leaves in the field to rot once the fruits are harvested, the farmers can make these leaves as an additional source of income.

As a result of that meeting, Secretary Piñol committed to providing a modern decorticating machine which the local pineapple farmers can use to produce the raw material for piñatex. While Dr. Hijosa pledged to buy the said material to use in the manufacturing of the textile.

With this new development, the pineapple has once again proven that it is not only a superfood. It’s also an essential source of several other products. And, of course, the farmers that grow them are provided with a better quality of life.