A Sweet and Sustainable Alternative: Piñatex®
In the 1990s, Dr. Carmen Hijosa, a leather goods expert, traveled to the Philippines to consult on the leather export industry. Through her time there, she was able to witness firsthand all of the environmental damage caused by ‘mass leather production and chemical tanning.’ Traditional leather requires various toxic chemicals which poisons local water and obviously harms animals in the process. Dr. Carmen Hijosa became motivated to establish a new, more sustainable manufacturing process for leather and was inspired by the Philippines’ great accessibility to a plethora of natural resources. She started a company to enact the change she wanted to see in the world, one that was committed to material research, as well as innovation.
Based in London, Ananas Anam Ltd has gained relative acclaim through their premier product Piñatex® which is a natural alternative to leather. Arguably the most well-known and widely-used leather alternative in the bunch is Piñatex®’s leather made out of pineapple leaves. The leaves used to produce the plant-based material come from what is essentially food waste. This pineapple harvest by-product is saved from being burned or discarded and turned into luxurious vegan leather. Dr. Carmen Hijosa and her team are driven by the Circular Economy and Cradle to Cradle values which means that they strive to create products that can either biodegrade or be easily reused if necessary.
Ananas Anam Ltd’s pineapple leather is created in a truly environmentally friendly way, though it is also sustainable for the rural farming communities producing it. Piñatex® is made by men and women in the Philippines who are given the opportunities to scale their farming businesses commercially. From small provinces on the Asian islands to big department stores in America, this alternative leather is making an impact. Brands such as Hugo Boss, Laura Strambi, Edun, and Maniwala have all introduced at least a few pieces made out of Piñatex®. While still in its early years, pineapple leather is becoming more and more likely to be the first leather alternative to reach the masses.