White Rhino is constantly looking for vegan fabrics that align with our sustainability and design goals, and a fabric that recently caught our eye is cactus leather. There’s no shortage of vegan leather options, but by exploring and testing out different materials we are able to see what fabric best mimics the feeling of real leather, which is enticing for people looking to buy a more sustainable purse offering that doesn’t harm animals. Cactus leather is one of the best options for vegan fabrics, and we’re exploring the ins and out of this durable material.
What is it?
Cactus leather is a sustainable, leather alternative made from the Opuntia Cactus plant. This material was developed in 2019 by two founders out of Mexico who were searching for a way to use their native plant to develop a sustainable fabric and make an impact on the fashion industry overall. Together, they built a company called Desserto, which is now a leader in developing cactus leather and coordinating the supply chain for the fabric.
How is it made?
The creation of cactus leather is a sustainable process because the cactus plant does not have to be harvested and replanted later throughout the creation of the leather. Mature cactus leaves are removed from the plant, leaving the core of the leaf intact, which means the cactus can regrow to be used in later production. Cacti also require little water in order to grow, making them a great option to limit water usage in fashion production. Once the leaves are removed from the plant, they dry out for 3 days. Those dry leaves then get mixed with nontoxic chemicals to create an adhesive backing that can be used as leather.
How is it used?
Since cactus leather is relatively new, we’re still seeing the different ways it can be implemented and how durable the material is. So far, cactus leathers have held up well in terms of durability, but they can only be used for certain colorways. The look of cactus leather is similar to real leather, with the difference being that the fabric is biodegradable. Most recently cactus leathers are being used for items like purses, shoes, and wallets. At White Rhino we’ve been looking into this fabric as a source for our upcoming designs to see if it can hold up.
Cactus leather is one of the most innovative ways to achieve a vegan leather dupe, and the benefits of using this fabric far outweigh the costs. Once more colors become available and we learn more about the material, we anticipate seeing this fabric on the runway similar to mushroom leather.