The word ‘innovation’ gets bashed about way too often. Yet how else do you explain Pinatex?

It’s sustainable, creates additional income for farming communities, is a waste material and a byproduct of an existing process. Simply put, it’s pineapple leaves, turned into new material that’s used as a substitute for traditional leather.

We wanted to know more, so we asked Tessa, Lisa and Susie from The Ahimsa Collective. They turn Pinatex into luxury accessories for women: Think feel good, stunning handbags and you’ve got The Ahimsa Collective. Here’s the lowdown on Pinatex…

Just how did Ahimsa get involved with Pinatex?

Pinatex was a relatively young company when we first heard of them. They had just won a global award for sustainability. So as a result there was serious buzz around this ethical and sustainable material. After all, it was an industry first.
After 9 months of ‘hello its us again’ emails, our Managing Director flew to London, knocked on their Head Office door, and didn’t leave until an order was secured. We desperately wanted to get this material to the Aussie market.

 

Pinatex collective pineapple leaves

Collecting pineapple waste for Pinatex production. Image credit: Ananas Anam 

Why pineapple?

Because we were asking ourselves, ‘why an animal skin and why plastic?’ We struggled with the reality that this is what most of the world’s bags are made from. We craved an alternative that didn’t harm animals or the plant, then pineapple leaves found their way into the market. Voila Pinatex!

Could other fruit scraps be used…or are they?

We think this is just the beginning and a lot of other ‘waste’ materials will move into the fashion industry. Already some brands in Europe use apple leather and mushroom leather is being made in the US.

Where did the idea for Pinatex come from?

Carmen Hijosa came up with the idea. She was consulting on the leather export market in the Philippines in the 1990s and visited a tannery. She saw the true ecological impact of the leather production and was shocked – ethically and environmentally it’s just not sustainable. From that point she vowed to never use leather again and had an idea that a non-woven material could be created as a substitute.

For a fabric to be suitable for handbags and give durability and strength it needs to have a non-woven strength. A woven fabric like a knitted material just doesn’t cut it, hence why the non-woven material of Pinatex ticks the box for us.

Decorticating pineapple leaves for Pinatex. Image credit: Ananas Anam

Where’s it made?

Ananas Anam’s Head Office is in London. Their factory where the ‘magic happens’ is in Barcelona.

Is it expensive to make Pinatex?

While we’re a part of the conversations on process and development of Pinatex, we’re not aware of the financial cost to create this magnificent material.

(Goodsmiths: Google tells us it costs about 58 Euros per linear metre, or AUD $90 to buy).

What does Pinatex feel like?

Great question, we’re actually sitting here with our bags to put the feeling into words.

First of all, Pinatex visually looks like leather. In that it has the same texture. The texture is also felt when touched. While it is smooth and soft to touch, you can also feel the grooves and indents of the natural fibres. Once our craftsman has finished hand making one of our Pinatex products, the feel is a little more stiff, but over a few uses, it starts to soften a little; but never so much that it loses any shape or original structure. A bit like a ‘traditional’ leather product.

Drying Pinatex fibres. Image credit: Ananas Anam

How does Pinatex compare to traditional leather in terms of durability, colours etc?

Pinatex, like leather, is a natural material. Except it doesn’t require harm to any animals. So it’s important to remember that all natural materials wear and age based on how they are treated and used. This is the opposite to man-make materials like PU and plastics where they essentially stay in the same condition and structure from day one.

In the production process, the leaves of the pineapple are stripped, so in its raw form Piñatex is made up of white fibres. Ananas Anam, then apply colour to it and apply a top protective coat. We currently make products in black and gold. The black is a dye and the gold is a foil application.

The strength of a product is based on the production and design – our products are extremely strong. As women, we know how much ‘stuff’ can be added to a handbag or clutch. So each of our products are made to withstand the desired weight (think Keepcup, cloth bag, water bottle).

In terms of the wear and tear, Pinatex, ages with the individual and based on how they use and ‘wear’ the item. Like how many people will have experienced with leather products.

Pinatex doesn’t fray or fall apart. The only ‘wear and tear’ to our products has been with the Black Pinatex where some of the the small white pineapple leave fibres might start to show through. However, with a simple dab of black shoe polish and paw paw, this is resolved.

Ahimsa Collective Pinatex bag. Image credit: The Ahimsa Collective

And finally, are there limitations in the use of Pinatex?

Yes and no.

There are limitations on any new technology right? Until someone tries something different or comes up with another way to use it.

When we first started, we worked closely with our craftsman to reduce the thickness the final Pinatex output came in, so as to avoid an inflated looking bag (the times of inflatable items like chairs and bags are, thankfully, behind us). However, Ananas Anam are constantly working on bettering the material and we have seen significant positive changes in the past 12 months, which makes us excited and proud to be on this journey with them.

So far the only limitation we have come across so far is using Pinatex as ‘piping’ to our bags due to the thickness of the material, so we are now using a strong paper product as an alternative on our more structured bags.

As we develop new designs and test out prototypes, we continue to push the limitations of Pinatex.

Shop Ahimsa Collective’s Pinatex bags here.

The Ahimsa Collective: Susie Hemsted, Tessa Carroll, Lisa Moroney

 

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