History of pineapple fiber (Piña)
Piña was a traditional Philippine fiber made from pineapple leaves. Pineapples were widely cultivated in the
Philippines from the 17th century and Piña was woven into lustrous lace-like nipis fabrics usually decorated with intricate floral embroidery known
as calado and sombrado. Piña fabric is characterised by it’s lightweight and breezy quality, which was ideal in the hot tropical climate of the islands.
It was the introduction of cotton which saw the popularity of pineapple fibre diminish. For the last 20 years, it has slowly begun to have it’s revival, as brands seek natural fibres and eco-conscious designers look to move away from high impact materials.
The pineapple industry globally produces 40,000 tonnes of waste pineapple leaves each year, which would otherwise be left to rot or be burned. Pineapple trees are grown primarily for their fruit, so using the other parts of the plant makes commercial sense and results in much less waste.
The name is derived from Spanish piña, meaning “pineapple”.
Who makes Pineapple leather?
A quick google search for ‘Pineapple Leather’ will tell you that Ananas Anam makes Piñatex®, the innovative textile made from Pineapple leaf fibre. Piñatex® was developed by Dr Carmen Hijosa and first presented at the PhD graduate exhibition at the Royal College of Art, London. It is a leather alternative made from cellulose fibres extracted from pineapple leaves, PLA (Polylactic Acid), and petroleum-based resin.
How is Pineapple Leather made?
Piñatex® is created by felting the long fibres from pineapple leaves together to create a non-woven substrate.
The fibres that make Piñatex® come from pineapple leaves from the Philippines. The fibres are extracted from the leaves during a process called decortication, which is done at the plantation by the farming community. Furthermore, the by-product of decortication is biomass, which can be further converted into organic fertilizer or bio-gas. Both the extraction of the fibers and the consequent biomass will bring added revenue stream to the farming communities.
The extracted fibres get washed and dried. After the fibres have dried, they are de-gummed (pectin gets released from the fibre). Pectin is the molecule that makes the leaves stiff. Once the pectin has been removed, the pineapple fiber becomes soft and flexible, similar to a cotton-like material.
Thereafter, the fibers become a non-woven mesh by stinging thousands of needles into the fibers in an industrial, mechanical process to produce a felt-like structure. This process creates the base of Piñatex® leather.
Then the raw Piñatex® gets shipped to Spain where it is further processed into a leather like material, using a special process. It gives Piñatex® the surface and durability of leather. This is the final step before the material, which is packed in rolls, gets despatched directly to designers and brands.
You can watch the video of how it’s made here:
Is Pineapple Leather biodegradable?
Pineapple leather will not naturally biodegradable. However, the substrate and base material of Piñatex® is made from 72% pineapple leaf fibre and 18% PLA (Polylactic Acid), and is biodegradable under controlled industry conditions.
Under these industrial composting conditions, PLA, which is a thermoplastic polyester can be biologically degraded anywhere between a few days or up to a few months.
Is Pineapple Leather durable?
Pineapple leather is strong, durable, flexible, light and breathable. It can do the majority of things that regular leather can do, but it has only been around for a short period of time, so the longevity of the material is yet to be proven.
What products can be made with Pineapple Leather?
It is currently being used by a variety of fashion design companies as the fashion industry looks to find and use materials which have a lower environment impact.
You are now able to purchase footwear, bags, watch straps, furnishings and various fashion items all made with Piñatex®. We are interested to see what other products are produced using pineapple in the future and we believe the textile is being further developed for use in clothing.
If you would like to know more about other innovative materials, take a look at these related articles.