In the fashion world, the undeniable need to go green is being met with signature style. From vegan leather made with recycled pineapple crops to heels that transform repurposed cork into chic footwear, sustainable materials are making a big splash.  

One of the newest, most exciting, players in the field is Desserto: a Mexico based textile brand that makes a silky, waterproof vegan leather alternative entirely from Nopal Cactus. Designers Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez teamed up to combine their knowledge of furniture, automotive and fashion industries to create a high quality and adaptable vegan leather. 

Desserto Founders Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez

Desserto Founders Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez

Desserto’s founders have a long history of working with leather and its serious environmental toll became extremely concerning to them, not to mention the animal cruelty involved in raising cows for the purpose of taking their hides. With their fine-tuned attention to the needs of luxury brands, they decided to create a high-quality vegan leather that comes without all the toxic baggage. 

What is Cactus Leather?

Cactus leather is made from the leaves of the Nopal cactus plant, which can be harvested without killing the plant. Desserto cultivated their own species of the native plant, indigenous to the region that grows with extremely low water needs. 

Desserto’s cactus plants are all grown in Mexico, in the state of Zacatecas, where Velarde and Cázarez have a ranch. Every six to eight months they harvest materials leaves from their mature cactuses, careful to keep the plant healthy and alive. This highly sustainable ranch, which is focused on long term health, not extracting the most resources possible, doesn’t use an irrigation system. The cactus is so well suited to Zacatecas that it can be grown with rainwater and natural earth minerals alone. 

Once harvested, the water efficient, CO2 absorbing raw material is treated, without any toxic chemicals, to yield a high quality and convincing vegan leather. The resulting biodegradable cactus leather is smooth to the touch, waterproof, durable, and very aesthetically pleasing. 

A Cropped Jacket from House of Fluff made with Cactus Leather

A Cropped Jacket from House of Fluff made with Cactus Leather

Is Cactus Leather Sustainable?

The world’s first organic material made of Nopal cactus, or “prickly pear” cactus, is highly sustainable. The Nopal plant is legendary for its ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Like many desert plants, it also requires a minimal amount of water to grow. While the average plant needs an average of 1,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of dry material, their cactus only needs 200 liters to yield the same amount of material.

Plus, 50% of the leaves Desserto harvest go to the food industry. This means that two products are harvested from a single crop. As one of the most pressing concerns related to climate change is a potential global food shortage, this intersectional benefit of Cactus leather is huge. 

Desserto leather made from prickly pear cactus

Desserto leather made from prickly pear cactus

Why is Cactus Leather better for the Environment than Traditional Leather?

While all vegan leathers are free from cruelty to animals, and therefore a huge improvement over traditional leather, Cactus leather’s benefits to the environment go way above and beyond. 

Some traditional leather companies try to make the argument that they make use of a “product” that would otherwise go to waste. Even though there is some truth to that, most leather is treated with chromium, an extremely noxious chemical that works as a serious environmental pollutant. Cactus leather is produced naturally, without dangerous chemicals that spill over into water supplies. It’s also well known that the raising of cows greatly contributes to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, cactus leather cuts out this concern completely. 

What can Cactus Leather be Used for?

Now that we know cactus leather is sustainable, ethically sourced, and totally animal-cruelty free, you are probably wondering what it can be used for! The answer: just about anything traditional luxury leather is used for. 

Cactus leather has been used to make faux leather jackets, adorable handbags, and vegan leather shoes as well as the interior of cars and high-end furniture. House of Fluff has partnered with Desserto to make tough as nails leather jackets. In the shoe world, CLAE has released the first ever Cactus leather sneaker in a signature shade of green. 

HOZEN, committed to sustainable and fashion free of animal-cruelty, is introducing a new line of bags made from Desserto’s Cactus leather. Let’s go green! 

HOZEN Quilted Market Tote • Grasshopper

HOZEN Quilted Market Tote • Grasshopper

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