A plant that bears the fruit with a sour bite can also produce the silken queen of textile.
The Philippine pineapple exports reached $105.4 million in 2015. After the pineapple fruit (Ananas comosus) has been harvested, the leaves lay as waste products waiting to be burned. Piña fiber comes from these leaves.
Although unrecorded by history, one inquisitive individual must have discovered that if you scrape the green outer layer off the spiny pineapple leaf, silken treasures can be found underneath. Using coconut husks, bamboo splits or clay shards that ancient individual must manually scrape and expose the sheer yet strong piña strands. These days, a decorticating machine will do the job.
When an object has many names, it signifies its importance in the society. Such is the case of the piña fiber. The finest fiber extracted for luxury clothing is called liniwan. Next comes the finer ones called pinukpok, in honor of the pounding each filament endures before it is woven into fabric. The coarser strands termed bastos can be made into strings.
The Native Philippine Red Pineapple or Spanish Red variety is said to yield the best fiber for weaving.
The best property of piña is that it is moisture resistant. Piña fiber is easy to maintain—just a little bit of soap and no dry cleaning required, organic and environmentally friendly. Though rigid when mixed with cotton, silk and abaca, the result is a textile luxurious to the touch.
Piña cloth has been around for centuries but in this era, it has progressed beyond woven textiles.
With vegan clothing on the rise, the need for animal-friendly materials is top priority. And pineapple is leading the race with the creation of Piñatex™. Designer Carmen Hijosa, who worked for years in the leather industry, used natural pineapple fibers from the Philippines and innovated her finishing technology in the UK and Spain to create this brand’s animal-free leather. Camper, Ally Capellino, SmithMatthias, and Puma have been snatching up this leather alternative in creating prototypes. However, the problem of consistent supply is a manufacturer’s nightmare. One that this new material is facing. Too few pineapple fiber suppliers, too many lining up to buy Piñatex™.
Opportunity is knocking at Philippine farmers’ and plantations’ door. But not only that, it’s a great century for material scientists to ascend!