At The Sustainable Angle we spend much of our time researching and sourcing both innovative and humble sustainable materials, in the interests of reducing the fashion industry’s over-dependency on cotton and polyester. These materials are showcased at the Future Fabrics Expo as well as other events and workshops throughout the year, and on www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com.
Few of our discoveries have been as exciting as Piñatex by Ananas Anam, a non-woven material made from the fibre of pineapple leaves, ideal as a leather alternative for accessories including bags and footwear. We’ve had the pleasure of showcasing Piñatex on numerous occasions already since its launch in 2015, including at the 5th Future Fabrics Expo, INSPIRE ISPO Munich, and at our recent sustainable materials workshop hosted in conjunction with UKTI and UKFT.
We decided to interview Piñatex’s creator, Carmen Hijosa, to find out more about Piñatex, and how fashion businesses and consumers can get their hands on this material.
TSA: Can you provide a brief outline about what Piñatex is and how it has evolved since its inception?
Ananas Anam: Piñatex is a natural and non-woven textile made from pineapple leaf fibres, which is the by-product of the pineapple harvest and as such Piñatex is made from an agricultural waste.
After significant research and development through a PhD at the Royal College of Art in London by Carmen Hijosa, Piñatex was launched in 2015. Today, Piñatex is developed through the company Ananas Anam, launched in 2014 by Carmen Hijosa. The company is part of the InnovationRCA department of the Royal College of Art.
Piñatex is sold only business to business, different products such as shoes, bags, accessories, clothes and furnishing products have been made from Piñatex.
TSA: It’s an amazing material, what first inspired you to start develop it? Was it a desire to improve sustainability in the fashion / textiles industries or something else?
Ananas Anam: As a designer, my objective was to create a product that carried social and ecological responsibility throughout its Life Cycle, and through it, do something about how to sustain and indeed to heal planet earth through our actions, at the same time than helping the pineapple farming communities in the Philippines, where the pineapple fibres come from today.
Thanks to my research and the ethical views behind Piñatex, a new and sustainable material was created. Piñatex represents a sustainable solution in the face of today’s social and sustainable dilemmas.
TSA: Can you tell us about any positive environmental / social impacts you have seen or expect to see as a result of Piñatex?
Ananas Anam: Piñatex does not need any land, nor does it use any water, fertilizers or pesticides, as it is a waste from the pineapple harvest. This is quite unique in the textile world, especially when we consider that pineapple is the second most popular fruit in the world, and without having to plant any extra, we have an abundant source of raw material to manufacture Piñatex.
Following the Cradle to Cradle philosophy, Piñatex represents much more than a new material, it also involves a societal and civilizational change. Ananas Anam offers the opportunity to empower pineapple communities throughout the world by making them and to make them more self-reliant and sustainable, as the harvesting of the fibres gives them an added income, with extra potential to use the bio-mass left from the extraction of the fibres and convert it into organic fertilizer or bio-fuel.
TSA: At the moment Piñatex is a very new and small-scale innovation which has already generated interest from international brands. How do you expect it to scale up and be used by the industry in the future – do you think it could eventually be a mainstream commercially used material, and would you want it to be?
Ananas Anam: The supply chain of Piñatex is being developed with the aim to scale up and become a fully functioning industry. This is the way that everyone in the supply chain will benefit to ensure that Piñatex can become a democratic product, available not just to a few, but to everyone that cares for social and ecological issues. It is my intention to make Piñatex become a mainstream material indeed!
TSA: The fashion and textiles industries are some of the worst offenders out there for negative environmental and social impact. What do you think are the most pressing environmental and social challenges that we are facing in the industry?
Ananas Anam: Textiles need to minimize their negative impact in the environment. I think the most important challenge is about water, as the production of textiles requires an important quantity of water. Regarding the social challenges, there are still unfair working conditions behind the fashion brands, especially in the countries where the cheapest labour is.
TSA: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to becoming a more sustainable and less harmful industry?
Ananas Anam: My research led me to the conclusion that the success of synthetics like acrylic, nylon, polyester and polypropylene is due mainly to cost.
Within a fast-evolving fashion industry which is more and more driven by the success of fast fashion brands, the production keeps accelerating and puts priority on quantity rather than quality. However, trend analysis tends to show a change in customers’ mindset. Indeed, people pay more and more attention to who, how, where and when the clothes we wear are made.
TSA: Can you tell us about your plans moving forward?
Ananas Anam: Our objective for 2016 is to consolidate our company and strengthen our team. Once our production is fully consolidated, we intend to reach to a wider customer base, while at the same time continuing the on going Piñatex R&D, to include more textures, surface finishes, and colours to our present range.
TSA: Finally, how can industry professionals and consumers get involved and engage with the work you are doing?
Ananas Anam: Professionals can engage with Ananas Anam by creating products made of Piñatex. Consumers can get involved by following the evolution of Ananas Anam on the social media. Finally, everyone can share our message on sustainability and our social values.