Vegan leather from Mexico’s cactus

Mexico (Guadalajara )

Two Mexicans have created an eco-friendly leather made from cactus. They want to reduce animal deaths, save water and change the local textile industry.

Strong, supple and soft to touch, plant-based Desserto leather provides a range of industries with a sustainable alternative to animal leather. Chemical-free and partially biodegradable, the strong, supple material requires very little water to produce.

Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázares, both hailing from Mexico, had the idea after working in the furniture automotive and fashion industries – where they identified that the problem of environmental pollution was serious. As a result, they were genuinely interested in reducing environmental impact, so they decided to leave their jobs and start Adriano Di Marti, a company to focus on developing Desserto, which nowadays is known as cactus or nopal vegan leather.

Designed to meet the technical requirements of the automotive, fashion and furniture industries, the faux-leather breathes and stretches just like animal leather, is partially biodegradable and free from PVC, phthalates – and other dangerous chemicals and binding agents that make things flexible.

Made from prickly pear cactus, the vegan leather requires very little water to produce, and the cactus itself doesn’t need water to grow. The leather’s durability means anything made from it should have a minimum of a ten-year life span. And its innate flexibility could help reduce waste in production in any industry.

The leather’s name reflects both its material and the heritage of both of its entrepreneurs. The business is based in Guadalajara, Mexico, and sustainability is its main focus. The ‘nopal’ prickly pear cactus grows across Mexico, and the company already owns additional land in anticipation of increasing production. As the use of alternative materials becomes more widespread, expect to see many more environmentally-friendly approaches.

Finding a green, sustainable alternative that sucks up CO2 instead of producing it, and which can give us truly cruelty-free, long-lasting leather seemed like a pipe dream just a few years ago. Debuted among the fashion elite in Europe, the hope is that this material will be adopted by brands that will prove just how well it can compete with more traditional, animal-based products.

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Written by

Adapted from a feature in Springwise (26 February 2020)

Project leader

Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, Co-founder

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