4 minutes with Carmen Hijosa - The woman who created Pinatex.

4 minutes with Carmen Hijosa - The woman who created Pinatex.

December 07, 2017

By now you will have heard of and about Pinatex. You know, it's that fabric made from pineapple leaf fibres? Well we took 4 minutes to chat with the CEO and founder of the company Carmen, who we also had the pleasure of meeting face to face in April this year. 

Firstly, what is Pinatex?
Piñatex® is an new natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre, which is the byproduct of the pineapple fruit harvest. It was developed to be used as a sustainable alternative to leather.

Where did the idea to start Pinatex come from?
I was consulting on the leather export market in the Philippines in the 1990s when I visited a tannery and saw the true ecological impact of the leather production - ethically and environmentally it is just not sustainable, and I realised we could not continue to utilise leather so heavily as a society. I vowed not to use leather any more, and had an idea that a non-woven could be created as a substitute.

How did you discover that the pineapple leaf fibres could be used as a non woven textile?
Lots of research! I wanted to utilise a natural raw material, and pineapple leaf is abundant as a waste product of the pineapple fruit industry. Traditionally the pineapple leaf fibre is used in woven garments, which are beautiful but very delicate and labour intensive, and a huge volume of leaves are discarded. I knew that to create a commercially viable non-woven leather alternative I needed to find a resource that had certain qualities: strong, light, and able to be sourced sustainably. The pineapple leaf fibre stood out as the most suitable for my needs.

How long did the research and initial prototype of the first sample of Pinatex take?From the discovery of understanding that I could develop an alternative to leather using natural subtropical fibres, to the discovery that pineapple leaves fibres were the optimum fibre, to the lab tests and proof of concept  to the very first sample it took about 8 years - which included my PhD at the Royal College of Art, London.

Did you ever think Pinatex would grow so quickly and be in such high demand with fashion designers across the world?
I developed a product so that it could be be globally available, taking into consideration that for such an undertaking the processes needed to be up scalable and able to be replicated in any pineapple growing part of the world. So yes, the vision has always been towards global growth so the benefits to people and the earth would truly have an impact.

That designers have taken to Piñatex in such a positive way is of course not only rewarding for myself as the inventor, but also for the team and everyone involved in the supply chain and the business!

What's the best advice you've ever been given?
I thrive on advice and seek it all the time, so just an example: 'There is no waste, only a lack of understanding how to use what we consider waste' -  this change of paradigm made me understand truly the potential of what we consider waste may and can become the foundation for something else, adding value and keeping resources in constant use.     

What's next for Ananas Anam?
We are always working towards achieving the next steps in the vision - at the moment our focus is upscaling to meet demand, developing new partnerships with other farming communities and working on developing a bio-based finishing for the textile.

Follow Pinatex on social media: @pinatex
View our Pinatex range here: TIVC Pinatex Range

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