Materials Innovation supported by The Clothworkers' Foundation - Winner 2016
Spanish-born Carmen Hijosa is the creator of Piñatex, a unique, natural and sustainable, nonwoven textile made from pineapple leaf fibres. As she explains ‘my previous work had been in the designing and manufacturing of leather goods, which gave me an insight into the ecological damage caused by the tanning of leather’. Through time spent in the Philippines working with weavers, weaving communities and researchers she started to understand the nature of the indigenous, natural fibres they were working with. One particular fibre caught Carmen’s imagination from the start: pineapple leaf fibres, which are the by-product of the pineapple harvest thus, an agricultural waste. While working with these fibres Carmen realized that their fine, strength and flexible characteristics would made them very appropriate to be developed iinto a non woven mesh, not unlike leather.
With the first prototypes developed, she applied to the Textile Department of the RCA London to complete the R&D on the new material as a researcher, an area she was well versed in having completed a BA and MA in Textiles at the National College of Art & Design, Dublin years before.
Adhering to a strong social and ecological agenda Carmen developed the full supply chain for the product from farm to finished product adopting the Cradle to Cradle ® ethos. During her PhD she collaborated with several brands such as Camper and Puma who made shoe prototypes and niche companies such as Ally Capellino as well as with RCA designers making bags and furniture. The idea was to show the versatility and potential of Piñatex through the making of accessories and home furnishings.
Finding a replacement for leather is now top of the agenda for many manufacturers including those in the car and aeronautical industries. The possibility of replacing leather with a textile developed from from what otherwise is, a waste product from agriculture is the primary goal of Piñatex. This alongside the aim to bring extra income to the farming communities are the primary goals of Carmen’s company Ananas Anam. Should she receive this award Carmen intends to develop a 100% natural, bio-based coating for Piñatex and would continue to research a more sustainable degumming process for the pineapple fibres.