Making Fashion from Fruit: Is this the future?

Sustainability – the art of meeting our needs today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs – is becoming more and more integral to the way businesses have to operate. From fashion to food production, to building materials to cosmetics, manufacturers are searching for ways to be as sustainable as possible. Even the Premier League now has a sustainability table, with Tottenham topping it for its efforts to be greener.

But more on fashion… It can be so hard to find stylish, affordable clothes that don’t leave a large carbon footprint. Especially fast fashion, to which we have become so used over the last 20 years, leaves an unacceptable footprint on our planet’s ever scarcer resources. One of fashion’s sub-industries, the leather industry for instance, draws fierce criticism not only because of the cruelty to animals, but also because of the serious water pollution it causes as a result of the tanning process that leaves copious quantities of hazardous waste compounds in water.

Dr Carmen Hijosa, Founder and CEO of Ananas Anam Ltd (UK) came up with the brilliant idea to make Piñatex, a leather alternative made from pineapple leaf fibre. Having seen for herself the shocking environmental impact of mass leather production and chemical tanning and its toxic pollution of the waterways in the Philippines, she was driven to research a sustainable alternative. Her findings led her to pineapples and their dense fibre, making a perfect leather alternative.

Raw pineapple leaf fibre, which is a natural waste product from the harvest, is felted together to create a non-woven, leather-like material. Over 40,000 tonnes of wasted pineapple leaves are left over every year by the pineapple industry, and these leaves are usually left to rot or are burned.

The distinctive, flexible material works well to make shoes and bags in particular, and brands such as Veja and Hugo Boss have started incorporating Piñatex into their collections.

In addition to being much better for the environment, Piñatex also creates extra income for farmers and provides an opportunity for developing farming communities to enter commercial industry.

More leather alternatives

Pellemela is another leather alternative, made from apple waste and has a slightly smoother and more leather-like texture than its tropical cousin.

Pioneered by an apple farmer in Bolzano, Italy, it is made using the skin and core waste of the fruit which is dehydrated and powdered down and mixed with water and a natural glue. Pellemela is just as durable as leather but comes with the peace of mind that no animals were harmed in its production.

As well as being well-known for its leather, Italy also produces some amazing wines. Now, these two industries have come together to create a sustainable leather-like product from grape marc – that is the skins, stalks and seeds of the grapes, which are usually discarded in the wine-making process.

Vegea is the number one producer of this ‘wine-leather’, a 100% sustainable and vegan product which has already been awarded the Global Change Award by H&M, the Swedish fashion chain. H&M has been using Vegea to make shoes and handbags since 2020.

Fashion, of course, has always been about creativity, but now the creation of new, sustainable materials is equally in vogue and exciting news in fashion’s sustainability journey.

Further reading