If you’re interested in innovative solutions, you’ll be interested in Piñatex. Lucky for us, WeAllShareRoots, a small French-South African company, is the first African brand to feature this new fibre.

Piñatex is a PETA-certified leather alternative made from pineapple leaves. It is produced by felting pineapple leaf fibres together to create a non-woven substrate. Resilient like leather, Piñatex is breathable and flexible, making it ideal for bags, shoes and other accessories. Based in Cape Town, WeAllShareRoots creates bags and purses featuring bright African prints. The brand only uses locally sourced trims and finishes and until now has used suede leather and paneling.

When founder and director Elise Sormani (featured above) and I meet, her warmth and kindness are evident and it quickly becomes clear that people and the environment underpin her business values. Elise is a self-proclaimed slow fashion merchant and says when she launched WeAllShareRoots two years ago, she had fallen in love with South Africa, its people and its prints. “I knew there would be interest in the bags in France especially with the waxed Shweshwe prints. At first, I was making the bags myself. When I needed to increase production I found NGOs and seamstresses in Lavender Hill who have phenomenal expertise and are able to work from home to accommodate their family commitments.

“I’ve tried to be ethical in terms of how the bags are produced and where I source the materials like the brass hooks and other components. But I started questioning where the suede was coming from and how the animals were treated. I realised that I couldn’t use suedes and leathers forever and looked for an alternative material that was equally strong, not plastic, and with a beautiful aesthetic. This led me to Piñatex,” says Elise.

Piñatex was developed by Carmen Hijosa (featured in the image above with non-woven pineapple fibre mesh), the founder of Ananas Anam Ltd. She is an ethical entrepreneur with a vision for a more sustainable future, connecting people, ecology and economics. The journey of Piñatex began when she realised the toxic impact of mass leather production while consulting in the Philippines. Driven to find an alternative solution, Carmen undertook a doctorate at the Royal College of Art in Britain in her late 50s, and has developed a vibrant new business that is both socially and environmentally responsible.

The Piñatex used in the WeAllShareRoots is made from pineapples in the Philippines (featured above) and produced in Barcelona by a company in London. It’s sounds like a complicated supply chain, but it is the only way the holding company, Ananas Anam Ltd, has been able to guarantee the sustainable manufacturing process.

Currently only available in a limited number of colours, and in two coated ‘metallic’ finishes, the producers of the material are struggling to keep up with global demand and have had to limit who they work with.

Elise had several interviews via Skype and submitted various documents, and even took a pledge promising that the Piñatex will not be used on a design featuring any animal products in order to successfully secure the material. The first two exclusive WeAllShareRoots Piñatex clutch collections will feature a gold metallic Piñatex that strongly resembles leather.

The bags are crafted in WeAllShareRoots signature bright prints but instead of suede panels, the gold Piñatex features. The result is a beautiful cross body bag that will take you from walking around the city during the day to being used as a clutch bag at night when you remove the strap.  Versatility is important to Elise and features strongly in her previous collections.

“I want you to buy the bags because you believe in what we stand for and because you would feel good about buying one. I want WeAllShareRoots to reflect a happy vegan style. The colours and prints we use are bright and make you feel good. I want all the materials we use to evoke this feeling too, especially with the introduction of Piñatex.”

The new Piñatex range of fewer than 100 bags launches today (Wednesday, 20 June). The bags cost between R900 – R1000, a fabric purse costs R450. They each come with a limited edition certification card so you know your bag was made by hand with care. Available online here.   

Photo credits: Main image from WeAllShareRoots; first image in text: WeAllShareRoots; second image: Piñatex; third image: J.Maentz/Piñatex; fourth image: WeAllShareRoots