Piñatex™, innovative and sustainable textiles from pineapples!

Piñatex-PunackpuckCarmen Hijosa has a well-honed eye for beautiful things having worked with luxury leather goods for more than twenty years.  Her Damascene moment came when a piece of consultancy work took her to a leather tannery in a developing country.  The impact was laid bare, and shocking.  Soon after she was engaged by a Philippine client to upgrade their leather goods for export.  Rather than working with leather (which was imported), Carmen advised looking at local materials readily available in the Philippines.  Over five years of research and development, and a PhD at the Royal College of Art, following culminating in the launch of Piñatex™, a natural and sustainable non-woven textile by Ananas Anam Ltd, backed by the InnovationRCA, and protected by patent.

Piñatex™ is made from fibres of pineapple leaves, which are usually discarded and left to rot when the fruit is harvested.  The fine, flexible fibres are extracted from the leaf through a process called decortication.  Once degummed, the fibres are surprisingly soft to the touch and breathable.  They are processed into a non-woven mesh textile at a local factory in the Philippines, then shipped to a finishing factory near Barcelona, Spain.  The company already has sufficient scale to meet orders of up to 500m of fabric in a variety of colours, finishes and thicknesses.

Piñatex-Ginto02As the Piñatex’ pineapple fibres are a by-product of the fruit harvest, no extra water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them.  The textile, which is renewable, compostable, and tactile is also amazingly versatile as it is mouldable and easily dyed.  It feels like felt, and is suitable for a range of finishes: waxed it looks like leather; embossed it looks like an animal or reptile skin (pictured above); and the metallic finish adds a whole new glamorous edge.  The current water-resistant coating, while technically biodegradable, still contains a tiny amount of petro-chemicals, so Hijosa is working with Bangor University, supported by an innovation voucher from InCrops (specialists in biorenewables and bio-based products) to develop a completely compostable, non-petroleum based coating.

Piñatex-BagaheThe textile has direct appeal to the fashion, accessories and furnishing industries.  Having passed all the technical tests (ISO international standards for: seam rupture, tear resistance, tensile strength, light and colour fastness and abrasion resistance), a number of key brands are now using the textile to develop prototype products.  At around £18 per metre, Pinatex is more economical than leather (typically around £30 per metre), and there is much less waste.  The irregular shape of leather hides leads to significant wastage of around 25%, where as Pinatex is available on 218cm or 150cm wide rolls.

This week sees the first official presentation of Pinatex, the Pine-Apple Show, Imagine everyday through Piñatex™ at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU from 12th -17th December.  Prototype products made from Piñatex™ designed by Ally Capellino, Camper, Puma, John Jenkings in collaboration with Ulterior Design Upholstery, Patricia Moore, Dagmar Kestner, SmithMatthias and Julia Georgallis will be on show.  The event is supported by the RCA, the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre in London, underlining the potential for this product to support sustainable livelihoods.

Intended Life CycleHijosa has worked in partnership with an agricultural co-operative in the Philippines to source the material.  The fibres represent only 5% of the leaf, so the remaining biomass, the by-product of decortication, can be converted into organic fertiliser (typically the farmers’ greatest cost) or bio-gas. So Pinatex has the potential to offer the farmers two new revenue streams, from the fibres and the bio-mass.  The process uses tried and tested technologies reducing barriers to scaleability.   Hijosa aims to replicate the production in other geographies, providing sustainable livelihoods for agricultural communities, and perhaps introducing greater variety to the range of finishes and products based on different traditions.  In time, and with the support of the Philippine Textile Research Institute, the existing finishing partners in Barcelona and Hijosa intend to develop the skills and knowledge to finish the textile in the Philippines.

PiñatexTM is more than a versatile non-woven, natural textile with great aesthetic and technical performance; the whole life-cycle of the textile has been designed and developed along Cradle2Cradle principles, in fact, Dr. Michael Braungart, author of “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” is assessing Hijosa’s PhD thesis.  Pinatex is a story of innovation finding beauty and inspiration in the discarded.

 

 

 

 

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Handmade in Britain – the CC edit

ELakelinI first lingered to admire the beautiful wooden vessels created by Eleanor Lakelin from British wood.  Eleanor studied cabinet-making, after a career in teaching, and was the first woman to win the annual Austin’s Prize for Craftsmanship in Wood in 1998.  More recently, Eleanor has focused on turning wood on a lathe to carve decorative pieces and functional objects such as bowls and food boards.

Eleanor’s vessels are sensory pieces that you need to see, feel and smell in order to fully digest their beauty.  The wood is from trees that have fallen or had to be felled, and each different species of tree has distinct characteristics and qualities as a wood.   There are ethereal sculptural forms created from the wood of a 300 year old horse chestnut that was turned, carved, sandblasted and bleached.  Sycamore lends a warm, golden hue to bowls carved with dimples that look almost aquatic.  Bowls made from olive ash have a tonal colour as the wood closer to the centre of the trunk is darker.  Each piece tells the story of its origin, and Eleanor’s sympathetic interventions using only the lathe, sanding, bleaching and scorching.

After training as a painter at The Royal College of Art, London in the early 1960s, Rachel Scott began spinning and weaving in 1976.  Initially a practical response to pressing need for some carpet, Rachel found great satisfaction in this new  medium for her artistic expression.  Her first loom was made from some boards salvaged from a skip, and her brother made her spinning wheel.

RScottRachel undertakes every aspect of product.   The fleeces come from friends who live on the Berkshire Downs and different breeds of British sheep. Rachel cards and combs the fibres before hand-spinning them into wool.  The wool remains undyed and tapestry woven on an upright wooden frame loom.  The rugs are bold, geometric designs in the subtle colours of the natural wool from different breeds. Black Welsh (black with rusty tips), Devon Longwools (cream), Manx Logthans (soft, pale brown), Shetlands (fine,brown, grey,black), Hebrideans (soft,black) and Herdwicks (pale and dark grey).  The rugs are approximately 150 x 75 cm.  They can standalone, or be sewn together to make bigger rugs, or stair carpets.  I love the contrast of the muted shades with the strong patterns.  And, of course, the wool is natural, renewable, hard-wearing, breathable, warm in winter and cool in summer!

I had a short pitstop at Offkut, to admire the sculptural lighting and furniture made from reclaimed industrial salvage.  They had lent a stool to a weary neighbouring exhibitor and she vouched for its comfort.  Their furniture is certainly built to last.  Then a mini-domestic emergency had me pedalling home, pulled away from admiring the marine and floral designs of Justine Munson‘s porcelain.

Rachel’s rugs will next be available at Pullens Yards Winter Open Studios, 6th-8th December.

Eleanor’s work will be available at the Cockpit Arts Open Studios, 29th Nov- 1st Dec.

 

Winners of the SustainRCA Awards announced

mauricio_affonso_1 Quicksand

Last night at the Royal College of Art, the winners of the SustainRCA Awards were announced.

Winner of the moving mind category – Minho Kwon for the The Neo Tower of Babel

Winner Solutions for Society category – Shruti Grover for Gu Bank an offgrid sanitation and incentivisation solution for male migrants in India’s growing urban slum settlements.  80% of Indian cities do not possess even a partial sewage network, and 60% of the population practice open defecation, thats 662 million people

Winner of Inspired Products category – Chris Natt for Blastproof, a collection of simple tools for manual clearance of land mines.

Winner of Visionary Processes category – Mauricio Alfonso for Luffa Lab, another beautiful and sustainable material from the sea.  Products included an acoustic tile.

acoustictile_detail

The indigo colour is obtained by reusing wastewater from the denim-dyeing industry.  The highly absorbent fibres of the luffa can be used to soak up these harmful dyes that would otherwise be discharged.  Definitely form and function, lets hope these tiles are soon available for home or office interiors.

The event was buzzing, literally as we were fuelled by delicious eats from ento, canapés made from edible insects, even my vegetarian companion declared them delicious.  Why insects?  They are more space and energy efficient than traditional livestock, high in protein and nutrients like omega-3 while low in fat and cholesterol.  Yum!