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Designers explore leather made from cactus as eco-friendly alternative

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As more and more people are turning to more sustainable, less-cruel fashion practices, two brothers have developed a method that turns the popular cactus plant into leather that can then be made into shoes, purses and other fashion items.

Named Desserto, it is a highly sustainable plant based vegan-leather made from cactus, often distinguished by its great softness at touch while offering a great performance for a wide variety of applications and complying with the most rigorous quality and environmental standards. The aim is to offer cruelty free, sustainable alternative, without any toxic chemicals, phthalates and PVC. The result, Desserto, the Cactus Vegan-Leather, is partially biodegradable and has the technical specifications required by the fashion, leather goods, furniture and even automotive industries.

As one of the world’s most traded products, leather is part of a booming $80 million industry but its use of animal products and harsh chemicals makes leather problematic. The two brothers, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez have worked to find a leather alternative that is not only eco-friendly but has the look and feel of real leather. So what are they using to make their faux-leather you may wonder? The duo developed a method of transforming cacti into vegan leather that looks so realistic; you’d never guess it was made from cactus.

The cactus is known for its rugged, thick skin, which makes it the perfect texture to simulate animal leather. Mature leaves are cut from organically grown cactus plants, cleaned, mashed, and then left out in the sun to dry for three days prior to processing. It can then be dyed naturally and this makes for vegan leather that is certified organic and can hold up to regular usage for nearly a decade.

The brothers have said their leather is on par, in terms of pricing, with genuine leather and so far; they’ve created car seats, shoes, handbags, and even clothes. Since it’s made of organic material, the leather is breathable, which is often a problem with synthetic alternatives. In another plus for the environment, cactus leather is partially biodegradable and doesn’t contain any plastic, another issue with synthetic leather. This makes for a true alternative to animal leather that doesn’t have a negative impact on the planet.

Di Marti caused a splash when it debuted last year at the world’s most important fair for leather manufacturers, Lineapelle. Reception to the cactus leather was overwhelmingly positive, with the material being lauded for its flexibility, softness, touch, and colour. Currently, the brand is negotiating projects with major players in a variety of industries and working to make the material more accessible to medium and small businesses. So before you know it, you might just find yourself putting on a pair of cactus leather shoes.

The good thing is that cactus grows right here in Nigeria and our designers can begin to look at it as an alternative to animal leather to produce fashion accessories and clothing.


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