What is Piñatex Pineapple Leather & Why Is It So Popular?

Pineapples are much more versatile than you think. This tropical treat is not only amazing to slice on top of colourful cocktails, it can also be used to make fashion. More specifically, it's the main ingredient in one of the most prominent vegan leathers on the market, called Piñatex – a vegan leather made from pineapple leaves – that's blowing minds at major fashion houses and making waves for animal-free progress.

By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist and vegan fashion expert.

In this story, we will look at:

  • What is Piñatex pineapple leather?
  • How is Piñatex pineapple leather made?
  • Is Piñatex pineapple leather sustainable?
  • Is Piñatex pineapple leather biodegradable?
  • Is Piñatex pineapple leather waterproof?

You can see our full Piñatex pineapple leather collection here.

What is Piñatex pineapple leather?

Pineapple leather, or Piñatex as it's called, came about in a time when the debate around the leather industry was just beginning to take hold – and the arguments in favour of leather centred heavily around the scarce sustainability credentials of the faux variety. Animal leather was described (somewhat disingenuously) as a “by-product” of the meat trade, which made it look almost like the leather industry was recovering waste by making cows' skins into bags, jackets, and shoes. At the same times, petroleum-derived faux leather was – rather correctly – labelled as “plastic”, and, as such, bad news for the environment.

But then came along the game changer: Brazilian material innovation company Ananas Anam. Founded by Dr Carmen Hijosa, Ananas Anam has harnessed the power of a natural resource that is a true by-product: the leaves of the pineapples. The long leaves which grow alongside the plant would typically be discarded as they are considered waste – pineapples only flower and fruit once, so when that process is done, the leaves are a surplus. But Ananas Anam has found a way to provide pineapple farmers in the Philippines, where their sources are located, with an additional stream of income by buying the leaves and transforming them into leather.

How is Piñatex pineapple leather made?

The transformation process is achieved by felting the long fibres together, making a leather-like substrate. The leftover biomass can also be used as a fertiliser – who knew a pineapple could provide this much goodness? The felt is dyed with GOTS-certified dyes and coated with a water-based PU resin for preservation.

Is Piñatex pineapple leather sustainable?

The production of Piñatex emits much fewer greenhouse gases than animal skins or conventionally made faux leathers. It also contributes less to global warming, eutrophication, and water waste. Considering that the pineapple leaves would be burned if they weren't used, the creation of this leather also saves the CO2 that would have been emitted from the burning. 

Is Piñatex pineapple leather biodegradable?

A fully vegan material, Piñatex is 80% biodegradable – a considerable step up from traditional non-animal leathers, which are commonly made with petroleum-based fibres. The substrate itself, made from 80% pineapple leaf and 20% polylactic acid fibres (a vegetable-based plastic made from corn), is biodegradable in controlled conditions. Like many animal-free innovations in the leather area, Piñatex uses a coating made from petroleum resin, which halts its chances at full biodegradability. But, akin to many other innovations that humans create, Piñatex can be improved with time, and Ananas Anam is working on switching to a bio-based coating that would make the material wholly biodegradable.

What does Piñatex pineapple leather look like?

At its inception, Piñatex had a signature crinkly, uneven texture. But today, it can be made with smooth, grainy, and metallic finishes, which adds to its versatility.

Which brands use Piñatex pineapple leather?

Fashion brands are taking note: the first major fashion house to dip its toe into the Piñatex pool was Hugo Boss, which created a range of men's pineapple leather shoes in 2018. Next in line was H&M – known for experimenting with innovative textiles in its Conscious Exclusive Collection, H&M included a pair of Piñatex boots and a Piñatex jacket in 2019. The latest adept is Chanel, having launched a hat made from gold-tone Piñatex in 2019. In a time when vegan fashion is creating buzz, Piñatex is leading the way, taking vegan leather from obscurity all the way onto the Fashion Week runways.

In the more niche world of vegan fashion, the PETA-Approved Vegan pineapple leather is used widely – Piñatex is loved by vegan brands such as Svala, Rahui London, Bohema and Votch. You can see our full Piñatex pineapple leather collection here.

Being certified as a B Corp is a great step forward for sustainably minded companies. It signals that the company balances profit goals with attention to the planet's well-being, meeting high standards of social and environmental performance and transparency. Reducing inequality, addressing poverty, minimising environmental impact and strengthening communities are a few of the goals that B Corps share. Ananas Anam became certified in 2020, further proving that pineapple leather is part of an eco-conscious wave of material innovation that our planet needs.

By Sascha Camilli

You can see our full Piñatex pineapple leather collection here.

Love sustainable vegan leathers? Take a look at our edits for Cactus Leather, Apple Leather, Grape Leather, MIRUM® and Cork Leather

About Sascha

Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Feature image by Guru mtp

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