The two entrepreneurs’ aim was to create a sustainable leather which is a cruelty-free and eco-friendly alternative to the animal and synthetic leathers commonly used in industries such as fashion, automotive and textiles. Their final product – a vegan leather they have named ‘Desserto’ – is made from organic cacti grown on their own 2-hectare plantation in Zacatecas, Mexico. The leaves of Opuntia Cacti (also known as Nopal) are cut, cleaned, ground and then dried in the sun for 3 days before being naturally dyed. What’s more, in just 6 to 8 months, the leaves of the cacti grow back in order to be re-harvested.
The end leather material – Nopal leather – is highly durable, as well as partially biodegradable with a minimum shelf-life of 10 years. It is also as soft and thick as other leathers, with high breathability and wearability.
Compared to synthetic leather, cactus leather requires no water, chemicals or PVC for its manufacture, making it even more environmentally sustainable. Yet it is also an appealing alternative to animal leathers, generally obtained by killing the animal first.
Since the launch of Desserto at the International Leather Fair Lineappelle 2019, Velarde and Cazarez have reportedly been in talks with a variety of companies about integrating their product into the European market.