Tiare Hawai‘i Is Making Ultra-Cute Dresses from Pineapple, Banana and Eucalyptus
We talk with designer Jane Hoskins about the groundbreaking techniques she’s using to take the North Shore label green.
“She’s making clothing out of what now?” As a style writer, I’ve come across my fair share of eco-fashions, but this was the first time I’d heard of someone making apparel out of pineapple or banana, not to mention eucalyptus or mulberry bark. And cute apparel, at that!
I had to know why. And, of course, how.
“It’s something that I’d considered doing for a few years,” Tiare Hawai‘i designer Jane Hoskins says of her new sustainable Naturals collection. “I’d connected with a manufacturer in India that made all these really unique fabrics.” And then, of course, the pandemic hit.
Ask any designer and they’ll tell you that bringing on a new manufacturer is challenging in the best of situations. But working out the kinks with the whole world shut down, is infinitely more difficult. Once Hoskins learned what was possible, however, she had to push forward. “It felt really important to do. We wanted to make a difference.”
The how of it all begins with post-production waste. “Imagine that you’re putting some fruit into a juicer and you end up with all this pulp afterwards that normally would get tossed. It’s like using that pulp to make fibers,” say Hoskins. “So that’s what the fibers are made out of, the strings of the pineapple. When bananas are pulled off of the trees, the banana leaves would normally get thrown away—that’s what we’re using to make these fibers. They get put into a machine that weaves them all together to make a textile.” Surely, they’re mixed with other fabrics, I say. “They’re not, actually. That’s the really cool part. It’s 100% banana!”
The Naturals collection also employs fabrics made from eucalyptus and bamboo pulps, cotton linter (a byproduct of cottonseed oil production) and mulberry bark. All are vegan, free of chemicals, cruelty-free and organic. Importantly, all are biodegradable and compostable—they break down fast. “If you were to bury these dresses in dirt or if they were in a landfill, then in two months, basically, they’re gone.”
Design-wise, each material lends itself to unique characteristics. “They all have their own special feel,” says Hoskins. “The eucalyptus is buttery soft and slinky,” while the pineapple fabric is slightly thicker and has a subtle sheen. Lightweight with an organic feel, the banana fabric is one of Hoskins’ favorites. “It’s kind of like linen, but softer.” The bamboo is airy and the mulberry bark fabric, called mulberry silk, lives up to its name. And all work perfectly with the brand’s beachy, bohemian aesthetic.
And there are many more exciting plant fabrications to explore. Hoskins will incorporate lotus flower and seaweed fabrics into Tiare Hawai‘i’s next collection, plus an aloe Vera fabric. “It soothes your skin,” she notes. There’s a silk that can be made out of corn. She’s even sampled a rose petal fabric that feels just like satin.
Looking ahead, the plan is to have half of every Tiare Hawai‘i collection made with Naturals fabrics, with the hopes of eventually transitioning into an all-Naturals line. “We’re also about to introduce the Naturals to our kids line.”
The results are so fantastic, I’m curious why more brands aren’t using these textiles. “It’s not really known about,” offers Hoskins. “There are some brands in Europe that these manufacturers have worked with, but in the U.S. I couldn’t find anyone that’s actually doing it and I don’t know why. There are smaller countries that have been using these kinds of fibers to make textiles for a long time—it’s an ancient process, and it kind of got lost or replaced by what’s the most economical.”
It is more work and a little more expensive, she acknowledges. And there are fewer manufacturers that specialize in these fabrics. “I don’t think that people in the U.S. even know this is a possibility, the word hasn’t really gotten out. We’re just a small brand, but this is really something that we wanted to get out there,” to let people know “that this is possible and it’s so cool.”