Piñatex May Be The Best New Leather Alternative

Piñatex fabric in white. Image courtesy of Piñatex

And it’s made from pineapple leaves right here, in the Philippines.

Leather is all the rage. With Kim Kardashian in a sultry Balenciaga skin-tight head-to-toe leather look to another of Ye’s exes, Julia Fox, baring her midriff in leather separates, it’s no wonder there’s an ever-growing demand for the fabric. Or at least, the look of it. According to Lyst, the global fashion search platform, searches for “vegan leather” have increased by 69% year-on-year, while the demand for “eco vegan leather” in particular has also increased.

Luckily, Dr. Carmen Hijosa of Ananas Anam created a locally-made alternative: Piñatex, a leather substitute made out of pineapple leaf fibers. Having worked in the leather industry for the last fifteen years, Hijosa partnered with local communities to experiment with the same fibers used in the traditional Barong Tagalog.

Close up View of Green Pineapple Leaves. Image courtesy of LightFieldStudios.

These fibers, extracted from pineapple leaves, are usually scrapped by farmers after harvest—an estimated 40,000 tonnes of this pineapple waste is produced globally each year. The fibers are then separated, turned into a non-woven mesh, and then shipped to Spain or Italy for the finishing. Around 480 leaves make a single square meter of Piñatex, making it an environmentally-friendly and versatile textile that can be used for fashion, accessories, and even upholstery. Hijosa has even showcased prototypes by international shoe brand, Camper, and Ally Capellino in 2014 as part of a PhD graduate exhibition at the Royal College of Art. Now, you can find Piñatex in over 1000 brands worldwide including H&M, Hugo boss, and more—even on the red carpet.

In 2017, environmental activist Olivia Firth wore a Piñatex fashion statement to the 2017 Met Gala, heralding eco-friendly textiles in red carpet events. Wearing an Italy-based independent designer, named Laura Strambi, she drew attention to the forward-thinking textile and elevated Met Gala ensembles through innovative materials, moving beyond “who are you wearing” to “what’s the story you carry?”

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