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Taking plant-based materials one step further is Desserto®, the innovative cactus-based leather alternative. Staiy sat down with founders Adrian and Marte to discuss the sustainability behind their product and their role in the rapidly expanding industry of vegan leather.

Words By Allison Markowski

November, 27th 2020

Plant-based fashion

For many city-dwellers, the cactus is no more than a hardy house plant used to liven up our homes. For the creative minds behind Desserto®, however, this desert-grown plant is the base of that sleek leather couch or chic leather handbag found in your favorite department store.

With trends edging towards plant-based lifestyles, vegan leather alternatives are popping up left, right and centre. Hoping to replicate that durable and timeless material without the hefty carbon footprint, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez were inspired to create a sustainable and versatile material to reinvent leather. Having worked in the fashion, automotive and furniture industries, they were alarmed by the environmental impact of these industries, particularly concerning the waste associated with the production of leather and synthetic materials. Fueled by fear for the planet’s health, Adrián and Marte left their jobs to start their own brand, Adriano Di Marti. After two years of research and development, Desserto® was born.



A partnership with people & the planet

Although vegan leather generically aims to minimise harm to animals and the environment, the brand behind Desserto® believes protecting the people along the supply chain is just as essential to ethical production. By adhering to high economic and ethical standards, human rights and the environment are protected throughout production processes.

In order to stimulate local economies, Desserto® exclusively partners with privately owned, small-share farms in Mexico. They are selected based on specific sustainability criteria to ensure all parties share the same environmental standards (read: no deforestation necessary!). With fair wages and the brand’s state of the art technology, farmers can optimize their yields, half of which supply Adriano Di Marti’s material manufacturing, while the other half is primarily exported to the food industry. These partnerships alleviate the instability cactus farmers have faced in recent years due to price fluctuations in the food market, increasing their overall profits.

Upon harvest, the nopal cactus undergoes a natural drying process in the sun, eliminating the need for unnecessary energy usage. In the lab, the plant is mixed with recycled materials and ‘tanned’ with organic pigments, transforming the farmers’ harvest into a soft, durable leather alternative that mimics many of the qualities found in the ‘real’ thing. Moreover, the final product is partially biodegradable, composed of more than half organic carbon content.

Desserto® is committed to traceability to ensure that all stakeholders along the production line uphold the company’s core values: fair trade, human rights, environmental preservation, and animal welfare. Living up to these values, Desserto offers a plant-based material that is cruelty-free whilst also striking a perfect balance between price, versatility, aesthetics and quality.

Why Desserto®?

Working with a variety of partners, Desserto® has the advantage of versatility— it can be customized to meet the clients’ specific needs. Having started with a material purposed for bags and wallets, the team soon found that each application requires its own specifications. Depending on the product, Desserto® can be adapted to fulfill the demands of the client. For instance, a leather intended for boxing gloves would have a different formulation to that of a leather jacket. Their advantage is derived from their ability to create an adaptable and competitively priced material that meets clients’ expectations of aesthetics and quality, all while upholding robust standards of sustainability. 

Over the past two years, the brand behind Desserto® has been in constant motion. But Adrian and Marte show no signs of slowing down. In order to increase their production efficiency and further mitigate their carbon footprint, they aspire to open up warehouses in Europe and Asia. As their production is currently conducted entirely in Mexico, this would hugely reduce emissions tied to transportation when it comes to delivering their product to other continents. Along a similar trend, their team aims to produce a material that is entirely biodegradable by the end of the year!


Cooperation is key

Discussing the gravity of the sustainability problem in the fashion industry, Adrián and Marte stress the importance of cooperation amongst brands that would traditionally consider each other competitors. As they succinctly phrase it, ‘the solutions are few and the problem is big’. Consequently, they do not see other vegan leather alternatives as competition, but rather as collaborators working towards a common goal.

Putting this philosophy into practice, Adriano Di Marti collaborates with companies, designers, and students to promote the exchange of technology and information for their mutual benefit. By focusing on the bigger problem that initially sparked inspiration for their company, the brand’s business practices reflect the transparency they preach.

“Sustainability should not be exclusive”

Adrián López Velarde, Co-Founder of Adriano Di Marti

Transforming the ways in which we produce and consume is no easy feat. Reinventing the system will require an ‘all hands on deck’ exchange of creativity and technology and Adriano Di Marti’s innovative leather is one step further in the right direction.