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One of the world's most traded products, leather is part of a fast-growing $80 billion industry. However, the use of animal products and harsh chemicals has made leather a problem for environmentalists as well as animal rights activists. Luckily, his two entrepreneurs from Mexico set out to find a leather alternative that is not only environmentally friendly but looks and feels like real leather. So what do they use to make artificial leather? The answer may surprise you.  Adrián López Velarde and Marte Casares have figured out how to turn a cactus into vegan leather that looks so realistic it's hard to believe it's made from this desert plant. They call their vegan cactus leather "Dessert" and it's made from cacti grown on their farm in Zacatecas, Mexico. Cacti are known for their gritty, thick skin, giving them the perfect texture to mimic animal leather.

“The idea of ​​using this raw material arose because this plant does not require water to grow and is abundant throughout the Mexican Republic. It also symbolically represents all of us Mexicans, everyone knows it," said Lopez Velarde. “It is also important to count on a stable and abundant supply of raw materials to incorporate this raw material into various industries. Currently, we have 2 hectares of nopal growing area with an expansion capacity of 40 hectares. In terms of capacity, we have a monthly production capacity of 500,000 linear meters.”

Mature leaves from organically grown cactus plants are cut, washed, ground and dried in the sun for three days before processing. It can then be naturally coloured using a method developed by Adriano di Marti, owned by Lopez Velarde and Casares. This results in vegan leather that comes from certified organic farming and can withstand regular use for almost 10 years. 

As if that weren't enough, Adriano Di Marti's vegan leather is priced on par with genuine leather. The company has made car seats, shoes, handbags and even clothing. Also, because leather is organic, it breathes well, which is a common problem with synthetic leather alternatives. Another benefit for the environment: cactus leather is partially biodegradable and contains no plastic, another problem with synthetic leather. It is a true alternative to animal skins with no negative impact on the planet.
In 2019, Adriano Di Marti made his debut at the world's most important trade fair for leather manufacturers, Lineapere. The reaction to  cactus leather was overwhelmingly positive, praising the  flexibility, softness, feel and colour of the material. The brand is currently negotiating projects with major players in various industries, working to make the material more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses. You might  find yourself wearing cactus leather shoes. 

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