London-based B-Corp Ananas Anam has just celebrated the fifth anniversary of the commercialization of Piñatex – the innovative natural textile that has taken the fashion world by storm. Made from waste pineapple leaf fiber, the brand claims that Piñatex is the most sustainable plant-based alternative to leather commercially available at scale today.
Following a range of fashion collaborations, including with Nike and Mārīcī, Ananas Anam recently penned a historic deal with Dole Sunshine Company – the world’s largest producer of fruit and vegetables, to source raw material for its next-gen materials.
We had the great pleasure to speak with Melanie Broyé-Engelkes, CEO of Ananas Anam, to talk about the future of fruit and fashion.
Piñatex was the first natural, vegan alternative to leather to really make a breakthrough in the materials sector, can you tell us what made Piñatex stand out and make such an impact?
Piñatex is unique because this versatile, natural fabric is made from pineapple leaf fibres, a by-product of the pineapple harvest, meaning that no resources are used in growing the raw material making Piñatex the most sustainable alternative to leather commercially available at scale. Our founder, Dr Carmen Hijosa, was also a pioneer in that she started developing Piñatex over ten years ago and today the textile is the only supply-chain transparent alternative to leather which fully addresses the performance, sustainability, price and capacity growth needs of the market. Carmen has envisioned an industrially scalable technology to create a versatile, natural fabric, that would not only achieve the required material properties to be used in diverse fashion applications and beyond, but also develop and promote social, cultural and environmental betterment.
“We offer fair prices and safe working conditions, a transparent and traceable supply chain from leaves to finished material”
Piñatex has partnered with several household names in the fashion world – what in your opinion has been the catalyst to such an uptake in interest in sustainable fashion?
Piñatex is the material of choice for hundreds of vegan and sustainable fashion brands and has been used by global lifestyle brands such as Nike, H&M, Hugo Boss, Paul Smith etc. The uptake in interest in sustainable fashion comes from the growing awareness of the harmful impact of the fashion industry on the environment and on its workers all along the supply chain.
We offer fair prices and safe working conditions, a transparent and traceable supply chain from leaves to finished material rolls and are continuously reducing our impact on the environment. As a B-Corp™ certified company, we share our impact data via an annual report to inspire and invite all our stakeholders to join us on the journey to full circularity, which we can only achieve together.
We recently reported the huge news that Ananas Anam will partner with Dole – the biggest fruit and veg supplier in the world. What does this signify to the future of sustainability in materials and how did this partnership come about?
Our partnership with Dole is a game-changer for us – we will access a much larger volume of pineapple leaf fibres, to meet the ever-increasing demand for Piñatex not only in fashion, but also in the upholstery and automotive sectors. Working closely with Dole’s teams on the ground will help us to create a wider positive social impact among farming communities, by creating more jobs and generating additional revenue streams, and to continuously reduce our environmental footprint by valorising waste at scale.
“The strength of our model is that we repurpose existing industrial set-ups with our own patented technology, recipes and know-how.”
At Ananas Anam, we are not only developing new materials for a new world, but also building a new plant-based ecosystem that will bring about positive changes to the world.
How does Ananas Anam utilize repurposed pineapple leaves from Dole and what technical processes are involved?
For every ton of pineapple harvested, three tons of pineapple leaves are wasted. Dole’s teams will work closely with the pineapple growers on the ground to organise the collection of waste leaves and the fibre extraction, while ensuring that the leftover biomass is reinjected into the farms as compost or fertiliser. Ananas Anam purchases the pineapple leaf fibres and uses them to produce Piñatex.
Once the fibres are purified, dried and processed, we create a non-woven mesh which forms the base of our sustainable textile. It is then finished using colour pigments and a bio-based protective coating to meet the material property requirements for applications in the footwear, fashion accessories, upholstery and automotive sectors. The strength of our model is that we repurpose existing industrial set-ups with our own patented technology, recipes and know-how. It allows us to scale in a fast and agile way, by transitioning workers and machines from synthetic fibres to natural fibres.
So far, which fashion collaboration has been the most exciting for Ananas Anam and why?
Each brand collaboration is presenting its own set of new and exciting challenges, and we are proud of all of them. The best results are obtained when there is full alignment on the brand’s side – not only at designer level, but throughout the company, from the CEO to the buyers, manufacturers, marketeers, and logistic teams.
“We are big believers in ‘changing giants from the inside’ to create impact at scale”
Piñatex was born with the loyal support of our many vegan and sustainable fashion brand partners, and has grown through the partnerships with large fashion groups. We are big believers in ‘changing giants from the inside’ to create impact at scale – by defining a joint roadmap to become more and more sustainable together, step by step. It is challenging of course, but all the more rewarding when people connect over a shared vision and make it happen through creative problem solving.
How feasible is a future where vegan leather and sustainable fabrics dominate the fashion industry?
Anything can be achieved as long as all actors in the fashion industry work together towards the same goal. The ingredients are there, the willpower is there, but to offer credible and relevant sustainable fabrics at scale, we need faster convergence of funds, R&D, global regulations about the raw material input into textiles and how to manage their end-of-life, as well as standardised key performance indicators to assess social and environmental impact throughout the manufacturing processes.
What milestones does Ananas Anam have set for the short- and long-term future?
In the short term, our focus is scaling our production tenfold over the next 24 months, reducing production lead times by 50% and offering more competitive prices for large size orders to become the mainstream sustainable textile solution at scale.
In the long-term, we will expand our product portfolio to enter new verticals, expand the use of renewable resources across our supply chain to become carbon neutral without relying on reforestation, and develop social impact projects at larger scale.