The Mashu Meets series aims to connect you, our community, with the people that inspire our founder and team the most. As we continue to research the innovative ways that we can drive more meaningful sustainable and social change at Mashu, we wanted to spotlight the interesting conversations that we have along the way.
These are the conversations that inform and inspire us to take on the challenges that we face in creating a more responsible fashion future. We hope they inspire you just as much!
Mashu Meets...Riikka Juva. Riikka is the
Head of Communications and Business Development
ANANAS ANAM -
an innovative company that repurposes pineapple leaves into the sustainable vegan textiles Piñatex and Piñayarn; materials that we use here at Mashu when making our vegan bags and accessories.
We asked Riikka a series of questions to learn more about vegan leather alternatives like Pinatex. We hope you enjoy delving deeper into the world of vegan materials!
At Mashu, we are huge Pinatex fans. Having used your amazing material in our bags for many years now, we are well versed in the brilliant qualities Pinatex holds. However, we want our community to be in-the-know too, so could you give us a quick intro into what Pinatex is?
It’s wonderful to hear as we are huge fans of Mashu’s contemporary handbag styles! PIÑATEX® by Ananas Anam is an innovative textile product made from Anam PALF ®, a fibre extracted from the waste leaves of the pineapple plant. PIÑATEX is a natural low-impact textile that can be used as an alternative to leather. It has a plant-based substrate with a partially bio-based coating making it up to 95% from renewable resources.
What was the inspiration behind the creation of Pinatex?
In 1993, the World Bank asked Ananas Anam’s Founder Dr Carmen Hijosa to consult on the leather industry. Faced with the existing leather industry’s negative environmental and social impact, she was driven to create an alternative.
Inspired by the people and tropical fruits that surrounded her while she worked, Carmen started thinking about creating a mesh-like textile from the abundant supply of tropical plant waste. The result of this was Piñatex; a new, plant-based textile that could be commercially produced, provide positive social and economic impact while maintaining a low environmental footprint throughout its life cycle.
How many years did the R&D take and is there much difference between the first samples and the material now?
In 2011 the patent was filed for the process of transforming fibre into an alternative to leather and other textiles, and after many years of research and development, Piñatex was commercialised in 2016.
What do you think was the hardest process of creating the material and making it commercially viable?
Building the supply chain that did not exist. Carmen had to also fight to find manufacturing partners who had never worked with pineapple leaf fibres. Natural fibres such as pineapple leaf fibre have a long history, but they have been used mostly locally for specific small productions or used for low-value products. The cultivation of these very self-sufficient traditional fibers not only diversifies the global fiber market, but also decreases the dependency on irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides and helps replenish the soil with nutrients. By using natural fibres and valorising the agricultural waste also brings socio-economic stability to rural communities where job creation is challenging.
Sustainable materials are critical for us to transform industries and make sure that we build better, more humane and regenerative supply chains.
As one of the first vegan plant based materials, you are a true pioneer in the industry. I remember when we first started Mashu the industry was not fully ready to understand the impact of leather just yet. How do you feel that has changed now?
After the pandemic the market dynamics changed dramatically- all companies started actively looking for solutions, understanding the importance of waste-based materials and low-impact manufacturing processes. In the beginning our innovation was seen as something almost like an avant garde project, but now it’s seen as an important part of the industry. Also the new generation of consumers want better alternatives to conventional textiles and animal skins and more transparency in producing them - we can offer that.
Is there a way in the future to completely rely on bio based PU or a different coating that will allow Pinatex to be biodegradable without compromising on durability?
We constantly work on improving our material and each production step is carefully evaluated in our life cycle assessment to achieve the lowest possible impact with current technologies.
Piñatex is a plant-based textile and by applying a topcoat to the non-woven base, we provide the necessary properties and durability to ensure the material is lasting and meets the standards for many fashion and footwear applications. Piñatex contains 5% of bio-based PU along with 5% of PU, and we are continuously optimising the composition of Piñatex to increase the bio-based content. There is no doubt that in the future we can achieve a fully biodegradable product.
What is your wish for the future when it comes to leather-alternative materials, and the wider fashion industry as a whole?
In 2021 global fibre production reached 113 million tons per year. Synthetics account for over 72% of this figure, followed by cotton at nearly 25%. Other plant-based fibres account for less than 7% even despite being one of the most promising ways of tackling climate change within the textile and material market. I hope that we can increase the ‘other plant-based’ market and bring better material mixes to the market.