Ananasleder als Leder-Alternative - Nafilia Interview

Pineapple leather as a leather alternative - Nafilia interview

Pineapple leather as a leather alternative - An interview with Nafilia

Saddles, bridles and riding boots and sometimes even halters and gloves - everything is made of leather. As riders, we have a particularly large number of leather products! So it is high time that vegan alternatives were found for these products.

The start-up Nafilia has taken on the task and produces halters made of vegan leather. A super exciting topic about which we interviewed the founder Caro:

Hi Caro, first of all congratulations on the launch of your brand! Would you like to tell us directly how the idea for Nafilia came about?

Hello, yes you are welcome and thank you for your interest.

Actually, the founding of Nafilia was a coincidence. 2 mares came up to me curiously when I was picking berries for jam. At that time they were still standing on a pasture in France with about 30 other discarded racehorses. I fell in love with the two of them straight away and knew that I would bring them to Berlin in a timely manner. I immediately thought about and researched what kind of equipment I needed. For several years I have been vegan and resource-saving for ethical reasons. So products made of leather or Biotane were not alternatives for me. A few months ago I bought my first pineapple leather shoes. I was very satisfied with this material, so I came up with the idea of ​​using these natural materials as accessories for equestrian sports.

In your opinion, why is it so important that real leather is avoided in the future and vegan leather such as pineapple leather is used instead? For example, what are the circumstances in the leather industry?

That's a very good and essential question, because there's still a lot that needs to be clarified when it comes to the use of leather. From my point of view, there are 2 important factors that are against the use of real leather. One is animal welfare and the other is sustainability.

"Leather is just the by-product of the meat industry". I hear this argument very often. The reality is different, however, because the use of leather contributes significantly to the spread of factory-like farms and slaughterhouses, making them even more profitable. 80% of the world's leather is processed in large tanneries, sometimes under very bad working conditions and animal cruelty, as well as enormous environmental pollution. To put this in numbers: In 2014, 574,200 tons of cowhide (heavy leather, there is also light leather) were produced, of which 120,000 came from Latin America, 13,600 from Africa, 329,700 from Asia (China with 238,800), 18,400 from North America and 82,400 from Europe. Germany only contributed 1,300 tons here. Even "sacred" cows and oxen from India are illegally smuggled into Bangladesh and slaughtered or skinned there in the most gruesome way for the leather. The gruesome videos on the net speak for it.

In addition, the processing of leather (tanning) releases pollutants into the atmosphere. Chemicals like Chrome III are used almost everywhere to make leather durable and supple. Chromium IV is a poor-quality tanning agent and can trigger mutagenic and allergenic reactions. Investigations by the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety have shown that this toxic reaction product is still contained in the leather product after tanning and can even be carcinogenic. Stiftung Warentest has also found these harmful substances in every 5th child's shoe. These are frightening factors and unfortunately there are many more to come. For example the working conditions in tanneries outside the EU. The workers, many of them minors, are exposed to these toxic pollutants on a daily basis and often become seriously ill.

These factors contribute to the fact that I am very happy about the vegan alternatives. They are materials that are incredibly similar to real leather and do not have such a negative impact on our fellow human beings and the environment. I'm really proud to be able to use these materials, especially since we're the first to implement them in a whole new product.

We really think the switch to vegan leather is a super, super important topic! What is your vision as a start-up? what do you want to achieve

It is our vision to create equestrian products that do not harm our planet or animals. The awareness of the importance of sustainability, environmental and climate protection in recent years has shown us that we should rethink our priorities. In this regard, we want to set a good example.

For example, you offer halters made of pineapple leather. What other materials do you use?

In addition to our halter "Dorea", made of pineapple leather, we also offer halters made of cactus leather and grape leather.

Vegan leather has been around for a long time and how is it made?

Vegan leather has been around for a few years. The Ananas Anam company was one of the first and was founded in 2013. The production of this material is divided into 5 steps:

Step 1

As part of the pineapple harvest, the elongated leaves of the pineapple plant are first collected (not the small stalk / stalk of the pineapple, but the long, semicircular leaves of the plant). The leaves come from plants in the Philippines.

step 2

With the help of machines, the fibers of the leaves are extracted or detached while they are still in the field. This process produces unusable biomass. This can be used as a natural fertilizer or biofuel.

step 3

The fibers are then washed and dried (either by the sun or in kilns during the rainy season). In order to remove all dirt particles, the dried fibers are cleaned again.

step 4

A kind of net or felt-like carpet (the so-called "piñafelt") is then created from these dried pineapple leaf fibers in a mechanical process using biocompatible polylactic acid. This net serves as the basis for all Piñatex products. The fibers are therefore not woven.

step 5

The rolled up nets are then shipped from the Philippines to Italy or Spain for further processing. Depending on the collection and intended use, the piñafelt is colored with GOTS-certified color pigments and/or coated with resin for better durability.

For the production of Piñatex, only leaves are used that are obtained anyway during the pineapple harvest - normally the leaves are thrown away or burned after harvesting.

With over 2.7 million tons per year, the Philippines is the world's second largest pineapple producer. That leaves more than enough leaves that can be used to make pineapple leather. It is therefore not even necessary to create new fields.

For the grape leather one does not work with fibers but with the remains of the grapes, from the skin to the stalks, everything that is not used for the wine industry.

For the cactus leather, the leaves of the nopal cactus are dried in the sun and then processed into a mass. This process is purely organic, no fertilizers or pesticides are used here.

Can you describe to us how pineapple leather feels and looks, for example? Is this basically like real leather?

The pineapple leather looks and feels just like leather. It is the slightly firmer and thicker of our 3 types of leather that we currently use. The cactus leather is more shiny and has a smooth layer, while the grape leather is soft and extremely supple. It adapts perfectly to the horse's head in the shortest possible time.

You have big plans and want to release vegan riding boots soon, right? How far are you in the development of vegan riding boots and when do you expect them to be available?

Exactly, we are in the final phase of the prototype and are starting a small production for the first boots in sizes 36-42. They will be available on our website in December ☺

Do you always test the vegan riding boots yourself? do you have horses

Yes, I do a self-test for all products and over a long period of time. I tried the boot prototype myself and was therefore able to forward constructive feedback and requests for improvement to our producer.

Yes, both horses have been 'testing' the halters since last year. They were almost "wild" as they had hardly any human contact in France for the last 10 years and really put the halters to the test.

What are your other plans and wishes for the future?

We have big plans, but we want to take things slowly and carefully. Next we will launch our boots, followed by bridles and saddles next year. In the end, we actually want to offer a whole range of vegan equestrian sports articles.

We wish Caro and Nafilia every success and think that they are tackling a very important topic! We are definitely looking forward to the vegan riding boots! So feel free to drop by their shop: 

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