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Soft, supple leather alternative is made from cacti

October 1st, 2020 / By: / Swatches

A vegan leather made from cacti, Desserto lasts up to 10 years. Meant to be an environmentally friendly alternative to animal or plastic leather, it’s partially biodegradable and sustainable along its production value chain. Photos: Desserto.

Mexican entrepreneurs Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez wanted to find a cruelty-free and sustainable alternative to leather. Velarde, who worked in the auto industry, and Cázarez, who worked in fashion, recognized the adverse environmental impacts of their industries, particularly in animal leather production. The common alternative is made from plastic, but that comes with toxic chemicals. 

The answer was all around them: cactus, which is exceedingly abundant in Mexico. After two years of research, the pair launched Desserto, vegan leather made from nopal cactus that meets the technical specs required by the fashion, automotive, upholstery and leather goods industries. It’s breathable, flexible and doesn’t stain.  

The cacti are grown on an organic farm designed for sustainability. Only mature cactus leaves are cut without damaging the plant, so every six to eight months they can be reharvested. No pesticides are used, and irrigation is not needed—Desserto requires significantly less water to produce than animal leather. Any remaining cactus material not used to make the vegan leather is exported and sold nationally in the food industry.

Once cut, the leaves are dried under the sun for three days to reach exacting humidity levels. Then the organic raw material is processed using a patented formula. It’s mixed with nontoxic chemicals and shaped into a variety of textures and colors.

The innovative product received the prestigious 2020 Good Design Award Gold Accolade in the Fashion Impact category in recognition for outstanding design and innovation. For more, visit