Back in ‘01, Jim Bartholet spotted a colossal gap in the footwear market that, for whatever reason, nobody had properly filled. The athletic side was stuffed with nothing but beefy running sneakers, while the corporate side was dominated by some of the ugliest brown shoes known to humankind. Nothing really bridged the massive gulf between both of these audiences – and that’s when Jim came up with CLAE.
Purveyors of some of the cleanest and most premium kicks in the game, the Los Angeles brand has always experimented with environmentally-friendly materials and fabrics. After working on a series of ocean plastic-infused models, in 2021, on CLAE’s 20th anniversary, it unleashed its biggest breakthrough yet with a collection made from vegan cactus leather.
Now, two years on, and CLAE is more than ready to expand upon its cactus sneaker range. Made in collaboration with Desserto, which won the Green Product Award in 2020, each PETA-approved pair is crafted in Zacatecas, Mexico from the mature leaves of the Nopal cactus. A species that flourishes only at high altitudes, it’s known for its low ecological footprint and is one hundred percent organic. When the leaves are cut, they spend a few days sunbathing before undergoing Desserto’s patented process, which transforms each one into a soft, yet extremely durable, leather.
The CLAE “Cactus 2.0” Collection – which includes the “Bradley,” “Joshua,” and “Malone” silhouettes – comes in six all-new shades, including “Black” and “Sage,” and is available from the brand’s official website as of now.
And, of course, this isn’t the first time that the fashion world has dabbled with cactus leather. In fact, earlier this month, Scandi-chic label GANNI turned orange and cacti waste into the ultimate vegan it bag.
Text: Adam Cheung