Going vegan and ditching all animal products is tough when you love fashion.
It’s hard enough giving up cheese, then you’re confronted with the reality that most designed bags and shoes are made from leather.
The solution could lie in cacti.
Desserto cactus leather is, as the name gives away, a leather-like fabric that’s made from cacti and can be used to create jackets, bags, car seats, shoes, and any other item made from traditional cow leather.
But unlike traditional cow leather, cactus leather is vegan and far more environmentally friendly.
It’s the work of two friends from Mexico, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, both 28, who wanted to make the fashion industry more eco-conscious without comprimising on quality.
The leather doesn’t require killing the cacti, so don’t worry about our plant pals.
Instead, it’s made from mature leaves that are simply trimmed off a cactus species called opuntia ficus indica, which the friends grow in its natural habitat of Zacatecas, Mexico.
The leaves are cleaned, mashed, and dried for three days in the sunlight before being mixed with non-toxic chemicals and shaped into the texture and colour required.
The end result can withstand about ten years of use and, according to Adrián and Marte, costs ‘about the same’ as regular leather.
‘We have fashion designers telling us that is has great potential for luxury products because it feels so soft and yet it’s so durable,’ said Marte.
‘If you’re not an expert you might not even realize that it isn’t animal leather.
‘We knew the industry was striving for sustainable materials but they were too expensive to be viable on the mass market
‘Most vegan leathers are currently made from plastic which is so bad for the environment.’
Adrián and Marte came up with the idea of making vegan leather from cactus plants three years ago, back when they each worked with leather in the fashion and auto industries.
It took two years of research and development to finalise their product, which they’ve now patented.
‘Even finding the right cactus to use was a big task,’ said Marte.
‘There are around 700 types of cacti in Mexico alone.’
Their farm is food-certified organic and requires no irrigation or chemicals, and unlike caring for cows for leather, growing cacti requires little water – plus, the plants absorb carbon dioxide, adding another environmental benefit.
The company has won several awards and is in the process of forming some major partnerships with fashion brands and auto manufacturers internationally.
Those brand deals are top secret for now, but get ready: cactus leather could be hitting shops soon.
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