Penelope Wilson
Penelope Wilson
October 27, 2020 ·  4 min read

Mexican Inventors Create ‘Vegan Leather’ From Cactus in a Bid to Make Cruelty-Free Alternative

One of the biggest problems the textile industry has faced over the decades is activism over the production of leather from animal hides. [1] Leather is a staple product in the industry, used in the production of everything from clothing accessories and jewelry to furniture and automobile fittings. Animal activists and conservationists around the world have relentlessly advocated for alternative solutions to leather without having to skin animals and tan their hides. While most people argue that animal skin is a by-product of the food/meat industry and will still be produced anyway, cruelty is a unified concept that isn’t easily justified.

Over the years, many researchers and scientists have come up with faux leather alternatives such as leaf leather, pinatex, and waxed canvas, but not many of these options can fill in the big shoes perfectly.

However, this year, two Mexican entrepreneurs, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, founders of Adriano Di Marti, have come up with a vegan, cruelty-free, and animal-exclusive method of creating quality leather. [2] Desserto, the vegan leather is produced by the processing of nopal, a type of cactus into an alternative for animal leather that can be used to produce the same items and accessories. The pair set out with the aim of producing an alternative that fit the fashion specifications for products that may last up to 10 years, without the addition of any toxic chemicals during production. 

A description of Desserto on their website states;

“Desserto is a highly sustainable plant-based vegan-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 a cruelty-free, sustainable alternative, without any toxic chemicals, phthalates, and PVC. The result, Desserto, the Cactus Vegan-Leather, is partially biodegradable and has the technical specifications required by the fashion, leather goods, furniture, and even automotive industries.”

Production of Desserto 

Desserto’s ranch is located in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, and its core objective is to produce the material without any form of cruelty being done to animals or plants. Cactus is a very resilient plant and they only cut off the broad leaves of the plant without damaging the tree or root itself. After about 6 to 8 months, they harvest the leaves again and the plant continues to thrive. Cactus is a perennial plant and while they only have to plant once in 8 years, they ensure to cultivate more trees in the area as frequently as possible. 

The ranch is 100% organic and no herbicides or pesticides are used. 

The process of creating the leather involves harvesting the cactus leaves and leaving them to dry out in the sun for 3 days. This is done to achieve a very low humidity level. At this stage, they are ready to process the cactus and incorporate it into the patented formula used in producing Desserto®. All the excess cactus left after production is packaged and sold to the food industry.

So far, they haven’t cut down any trees for their work, and the technique used in cultivating the cactus also enriches the soil with microflora and microfauna. 

Desserto leather, due to its use in the textile industry, is only partially biodegradable and has a durability of about 10 years (minimum). 

A groundbreaking innovation

More consumers and fashion brands are becoming more environmentally conscious in recent times as global warming threats become harder to overlook. Also, consumers are paying a lot more attention these days to eco-friendly brands, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone makes the switch.

While Desserto has already taken off and the company is conducting sales of their product, they are working with other notable sectors of the industry to consolidate the use of the material and make it available to SME manufacturers. Pretty soon, you might be flaunting a leather purse made out of 100% cactus.

The pair successfully showcased their products in the last edition of the International Leather Fair, Lineapelle in October 2019, which was held in Milan, Italy. Desserto received massive recognition and interest from big names across several leather-consuming industries around the globe.

In an interview with UK’s Fashion United, Velarde, the Vice President of Adriano Di Marti explained how they came up with the idea of cactus as a leather alternative. [3]

“I had the idea after working first in the furniture and later in the automotive industry and Marte Cázarez in the fashion industry, where we identified that the problem of environmental pollution was serious. As a result, we were genuinely interested in reducing environmental impact, so we decided to leave our jobs and start Adriano Di Marti, a company to focus on developing Desserto, which nowadays is known as cactus or nopal vegan leather.”

On his recommendation to manufacturers who are interested in using the material, he said: “As our material is highly sustainable and cost-competitive, and it complies with required specifications, it is an alternative that offers a win-win scenario. They will not only benefit from developing a high-quality, sustainable range, but they will also have a competitive edge: they will contribute to caring for the environment and they will meet the growing end-consumers’ demand of using environmentally friendly materials.”


  1. Is it time to give up leather?The Guardian. Lucy Siegle. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  2. Two guys create ‘vegan leather’ from cactus in a bid to make cruelty-free alternative. Vt. Christian Smith. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  3. Two Men Created “Leather” From Cactus to Save Animals and the Environment. My Modern Met. Jessica Stewart. Retrieved October 22, 2020.