By Kim Robson:
Here at Green Mom, we’re always looking for new innovations in eco-friendly fashion. Recently we discussed exciting new CO2-based technologies for green footwear. We’re still a long way off from sustainable leather. Are there any natural, sustainable, animal-friendly alternatives that have the look, feel and durability of leather?
The answer is YES. A new materials company called Ananas Anam is taking waste product from the production of pineapples and using it to weave an exciting new leather-like substance. The material is made from fine cellulose fibers extracted from pineapple leaves, which are considered an agricultural byproduct and are usually burned or left to decompose.
An estimated 40,000 tons of pineapple leaves are wasted globally each year. It takes about 480 pineapple leaves to manufacture a single square meter of Piñatex. The fabric is less expensive and more lightweight than an equal quantity of leather. It is breathable and flexible, and can be printed, painted and stitched. Its production allows it to be delivered on a roll, avoiding the waste caused by irregularly-shaped leather hides.
Piñatex was developed by designer Carmen Hijosa, who has 15 years of experience working in the leather goods industry. While researching alternatives to leather in the Philippines, Hijosadiscovered the possibilities of pineapple fiber and partnered with local weavers to experiment with transforming it into a mesh.
Piñatex provides new additional income for farmers, and creates a vibrant new industry for pineapple growing countries. Piñatex fibers are the byproduct of the pineapple harvest; therefore, no additional land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them. No pineapples are harmed in the making of Piñatex!
In 2014, as part of a PhD graduate exhibition at the Royal College of Art, she displayedprototypes by shoe brand Camper and fashion brand Ally Capellino using Piñatex materials. Hijosa was the recipient of the Arts Foundation’s 2016 Award for Materials Innovation.
Currently, the material includes a non–biodegradable protective top layer for durability, although the company is working on developing a natural alternative that would make the fabric fully biodegradable.
On a side note, the use of real fur is seeing a resurgence of acceptance and popularity in the fashion industry. We’ve even seen real fur being passed off as faux. And producing faux fur isn’t exactly sustainable: it’s made from polymers. Again, technology comes to the rescue. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently have designed an alternative to fur, creating 3D-printed artificial fur. Other designers are experimenting with everything from mushrooms to red algae powder in the search for more sustainable materials.