Piña fabric: transforming pineapple leaves into eco-wear


Piña fabric finally made a niche in the fashion industry as a world-class material for high-end products, thanks to the local designers’ efforts.

Piña fabric has finally found its place in the fashion industry, thanks to the efforts local designers. The high-end clothing line now sees an increasing popularity among many fashionistas across the globe.

Barong Tagalog
Barong Tagalog

The lustrous Philippine-made piña fabric is made from the leaves of Red Spanish pineapple. It was originally used to make Barong Tagalog, a Filipino men’s formal attire. But as fashion evolves, women have started wearing piña clothes in many formal occasions. 

Properties of piña fabric

Piña fabric stands out above all fabrics because of its regal and timeless properties, particularly:

  • it is fine and translucent
  • it has a similar appearance to linen
  • it’s naturally glossy with high lustre
  • the cloth is softer than hemp
  • it has more texture than silk
  • it’s lightweight
  • it’s easy to care and washable
  • no dry cleaning required
  • it blends well with other fibers

History of the fabric

Piña weaving in the Philippines is an age-old tradition. It originated from Kalibo, Aklan in the western Visayas region.

When aristocrats of the pre-Hispanic period started wearing it, piña clothing almost instantly became the queen of Philippine fabrics.

The material also caught the attention of Spaniards. When they first arrived in the Philippines in 1500s, they were immediately attracted to the oriental subtlety of this indigenous garment.

By the 19th century, piña became an in-demand fabric worldwide. Until the cotton-made clothing was introduced!

Around mid-1980s, piña weaving dwindled, and eventually ceased. It was not able to compete in terms of prices with the cheaper cotton. Plus, the lack of new weavers made it difficult for them to cope with demand. The original weavers have retired due to old age.

Revival of the dying industry

Fortunately, some entrepreneurs stepped in to save the dying piña weaving industry. They started promoting piña Barong among wealthy families and personalities in the Philippines.

Celebrity Carrie Underwood wearing a pina dress.
Celebrity Carrie Underwood wearing a pina dress.

Local fashion designers also saw a great potential in the indigenous material. So, they introduced piña to the international market. They packaged it as an elegant high-end fashion.

Aside from Barong Tagalog and Filipiniana (lady’s formal wear), weavers have also expanded their line of products, to include

  • table linens
  • handkerchiefs
  • bags
  • mats
  • fans
  • paper
  • novelty items

And to showcase their creativity, weavers offer ‘calado’, a manually-embroidered fabric with traditional decorations.

Expensive textile

A 100% pure piña cloth or Barong Tagalog can be very expensive. Owning one could already be considered a status symbol.

To dispel the notion that piña clothing is only for the rich, weavers made a way to bring down its cost. But without compromising quality!  They do this by interweaving piña with other fine fabrics.

  • piña and silk combination is called piña seda
  • a piña and jusi mix makes a stronger piña-jusi fabric (jusi is a fiber made from abaca)

Why piña fabric is expensive

Piña weaving is considered heirloom more valuable than precious gold and silver. Production of the fabric is very tedious and time-consuming. It takes a whole day to make just one-fourth of a meter of cloth. It also requires tons of patience to produce an ensemble.

Despite modern machines, most weavers still prefer to use the traditional hand looming method. Perhaps, there’s some sense of sentimental value attached to it.

How much does pina cost?

Due to its complex production process, piña cloth is considerably expensive at $25 to $35 per yard, or even more. A piña-jusi Barong Tagalog costs between $80 and $90. While, a Filipiniana dress can cost from $150. 

Maintaining a piña fabric

Here are a few tips to make your piña fresh through the years.

  • When washing, soak first your piña clothes in warm water for a few minutes. Use just a bit of mild detergent.
  • If the fabric has turned yellowish, add some vinegar into the water and soak it overnight.
  • Gently hand wash the material.
  • Scrub off dirt with a soft toothbrush. But don’t brush on the embroidery.
  • Rinse it in up and down motion. Do not twist or wring the material. You might ruin the embroidery and the cloth itself.
  • Let it drip dry. You may also lay it flat to dry.
  • Iron your piña on low to medium heat while it is still a bit damp.
  • Cover your piña with a dark cloth to keep it from getting discolored. Store it hanging in a closet.

Sustainability

Piña fabric comes from a sustainable source. Pineapple plants respond better to fungicide-free soil.  And so, they mark a friendlier footprint on the environment. Weavers also use only natural herbs and plants to dye the material used in ‘calado’.

To sum it all up, piña fabric makes a very good eco-wear.

 

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