When life gives you cacti, make vegan leather. That’s just what Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez did when they developed Desserto®, a vegan alternative to leather made with Mexico’s most abundant plant: the cactus.
The material has been getting a lot of praise recently, winning awards and being used by big name brands like adidas and Balenciaga. In its latest application, it’s been used to create a version of the classic G.H. Bass Weejun loafer. A handcrafted, Americana icon, the Weejun penny loafer is now entering the 21st Century with this vegan alternative.
The G.H. Bass Weejuns 90s Larson Penny Cactus Leather is a collision of a timeless style with a forward-thinking, progressive material. It has all the classic design notes from the original Weejun: the slip on silhouette, the hand-stitched seams in waxy thread and the fairly chunky 90 lug outsole. The finish looks as leathery as any other loafer, and comes in a choice of three classic colorways: black, burgundy or dark green. There is also a women’s option in black with a slightly stacked heel.
Cactus is a fascinating alternative to animal leather. It’s probably obvious to point out that, as a desert plant, cactus doesn’t require a lot of water to grow. What water it does use is absorbed by the plant itself from the humidity in the air.
Desserto® only cuts the mature leaves, leaving the younger ones to grow so that the plant doesn’t die. And, as it grows and develops, the cactus absorbs carbon dioxide. It’s a natural carbon sink. From the 14 acres Desserto® uses, it’s able to absorb 8,100 tons of CO2 a year, far more than it produces as a farm.
The resulting material is flexible, breathable and doesn’t stain (unlike some leathers which can get stains just from water). Also unlike animal leather, Desserto® is organic and biodegradable. Surprisingly for such a new material, Desserto® costs about the same as animal leather, which gives us hope that we’ll see more of it in the future.
For more plant-leather knowledge, check out the latest episode of Progress Over Perfection, where we interviewed Dr. Carmen Hijosa, the Founder and Chief Creative and Innovation Officer at Ananas Anam, the company behind the pineapple leather, Piñatex.