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An eco-leather made from cacti is changing the fashion industry

“Sustainability is not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity in order for the fashion industry to survive."

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By Isla Harvey via SWNS

An eco-friendly, vegan leather made from cacti is taking the fashion industry by storm.

Desserto cactus leather is a highly sustainable and certified organic material that can be shaped into jackets, purses, car seats, and anything else traditionally made from cow leather.

The innovative product is the brainchild of two Mexican friends Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, both 29.

They had the vision to make fashion more environmentally friendly while refusing to compromise on quality or cost-effectiveness.

Desserto via SWNS

“We knew the industry was striving for sustainable materials but they were too expensive to be viable on the mass market,” said Cázarez.

“Most vegan leathers are currently made from plastic which is so bad for the environment.”

The fashion industry has a negative impact on the environment and the leather industry is a significant part of that.

"Each cow consumes around 1,800 gallons of water per year and the tanning process requires even more water, plus an abundance of toxic chemicals which poison the environment," said Velarde.

“Sustainability is not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity in order for the fashion industry to survive."

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Three years ago the two friends formulated the idea of making vegan leather from native cacti plants growing in Mexico.

At the time Cázarez worked with leather in the fashion industry and Velarde worked with leather in the auto industry – but they both quit their jobs to focus on their world-changing project.

It took two years of research and development to finalize their now-patented product, which was unveiled to the public in late 2019.

“Even finding the right cactus to use was a big task,” said Cázarez.

“There are around 700 types of cacti in Mexico alone.”

They settled on a species called opuntia ficus-indica, which they now grow in its natural habitat of Zacatecas, Mexico.

The farm is food-certified organic and requires no irrigation or chemicals.

Cactus is good for the skin and does not require much water to grow, and because they absorb carbon dioxide they are naturally beneficial to the environment.

Plus, the plants do not need to be killed to be used, the mature leaves are simply trimmed off, leaving new leaves to form on the plants in a matter of months.

The mature leaves are then cleaned, mashed, and dried for three days in the sunlight. The result is mixed with non-toxic chemicals and shaped into the desired texture and color.

The soft fabric is strong enough to withstand about ten years of use and costs “about the same” as regular leather, according to the Desserto team.

“We have fashion designers telling us that it has great potential for luxury products because it feels so soft and yet it’s so durable,” said Cázarez.

“If you’re not an expert you might not even realize that it isn’t animal leather.”

The company has won several awards and is in the process of forming major partnerships with fashion brands and internationally.

On September 9, 2021 the company made its debut in the automotive industry for BMW with a new material, version Deserttex, at the IAA Mobility Expo in Múnich, Germany.

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