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Cactus leather, an alternative to leather

Ever heard of cactus leather?

I discovered cactus leather via Cactusleer in the Netherlands.

With the purpose of creating an alternative to animal leather, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, both from Mexico, developed a vegan alternative to leather made with nopal (a cactus).

Cactus leather is produced under the name Desserto®. It is a highly sustainable plant-based material as an alternative to 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 alternatives, without any toxic chemicals, phthalates, PVC and it is partially biodegradable.

Thanks to its strong molecular bonding cactus leather offers high resistance to abrasion, rubbing, tearing, tensile and a great durability.

So how is cactus leather made:

They select and cut only the mature leaves of the plant without damaging the cactus itself and can be harvested every 6-8 months. The leaves are then dried under the sun for three days. Then the organic raw material is processed to make Desserto®. Their ranch is fully organic, so there are no herbicides nor pesticides used. All the remaining organic cactus material is exported and sold nationally in the food industry.

As cactus leather is an organic material it will last about 10 years.

Advantages of cactus leather:

  • Cactus is a natural carbon sink, it has a great CO2 sequestering capacity.

  • It takes approximately 3 leaves of cactus to create one linear meter of Desserto.

  • No plant damaging

  • Cactus grown in an organic farming system

  • 50% of our processed harvest is directed to the food industry

  • Cactus naturally regenerates soil.

  • It only takes 200 liters to grow one kilogram of cactus biomass compared to 1000 liters (on average) to grow the same kilogram from other crops.

  • Cactus is a tough and resilient specie, adapted to extreme conditions able to survive in areas where nothing else will grow.

My personal opinion:

Often when you search for alternatives for animal leather or even faux leather you don’t really get the touch and feel of leather. Faux leather often has this plastic feeling and is not breathable. Other vegan leathers often don’t have the look and feel of leather, like Pinatex for example (pineapple leather). Or are just extremely expensive (price per meter but also huge minimal quantities) like mango or apple leather which makes it not accessible to small business owners.

So, when I discovered cactus leather, I was super excited! Price range is accessible as it but more expensive than cork leather. It has a very soft touch and a mat look which is very close to animal leather. A downside for me is the small variety in colours in their standard offer but at least I found a great alternative for my black leather. And I think it is a question of time for more colours to be available in their standard offer.

Care Instructions

  • To keep it clean, remove dirt with a soft and clean cloth. If you feel you need a bit of extra help you can put a small amount of shampoo on your cloth.

  • Do not place hot objects on the material.

  • Never use harsh chemicals or household cleaning products.

  • Never use acetone to clean the material.


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