It is good to know that there are those who continue to work to make our planet a better place. 2 young Mexican inventors unveiled the very first organic leather made entirely from Nopal, or prickly-pear cactus, offering a sustainable, eco-friendly, and stylish alternative to leather. Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez travelled from the city of Guadalajara in Mexico, to the Lineapelle International Leather Trade Exhibition in Milan, Italy, last October to present the innovative leather substitute. The world’s top designers are being courted to make the product a staple in the luxury fashion industry.
For 2 years the young men labored to create the leather alternative that they claim is not only environmentally friendly and sustainable, but is also breathable and durable, able to last for at least a decade. This invention was triggered as consumers turn away from inferior faux leathers made with petroleum-based plastics, which are harder to clean and not breathable as compared to genuine animal hides.
The nopal cactus has long been a national symbol of Mexico, and is also a crucial staple of the Mexican diet. It is rich in antioxidants and is prepared in many ways. It is also used as feed for livestock, and millions of acres in Mexico are devoted to cultivating the plant. The prickly pear has also been used for medicinal purposes, and as a dye for textiles and murals. Recently, Mexican inventors have created a Nopal fiber that can be utilized in the aeronautics industry, or as a substitute plastic for biodegradable straws and cutlery.
Cazarez explains, “The cactus has many cosmetic applications: in shampoo, in creams. So we figured, if it’s good for the skin, why not create a Nopal leather? And this was how the idea was born.”
There were many who discouraged them by saying it was a crazy idea and will not work, yet the two persisted on the idea. Lopez recounts, “ Mexico has the potential to innovate, especially with nopal, which is the symbol of the country. But so many people told us we were crazy! Even our engineers told us that that could not be done.”
Lopez continues, “ We said why not? We are in Mexico, we are Mexicans, what raw material is more suitable for us to exploit than nopal? It grows by itself, it doesn’t need much watering, it doesn’t waste much water. That’s when we began to experiment with the nopal, and after several tests, we were able to develop a resistant material.”
The two inventors were also inspired by recent innovations coming out of Europe, like leathers such as Frumat, a Italian textile made from the waste of processing apples, and Pinatex, a Spanish textile made from the discarded leaves of the pineapple plant.
Well, it was not easy for the two. After a long period of trial and error, they made a breakthrough when they devised an organic blend of nopal and cotton, with the proper had feel and attractive look that consumers look for. “The nopal can be used to make a small dress, a purse, a belt, a watch strap, a small bookcase, or an armchair,” Cazarez noted. “Any leather can be replaced with organic alternatives; animal leathers or synthetic leathers can be replaced by organic alternatives. This is the cycle and it supports our ecosystem,” he adds.
Their dream of assisting and supporting farmers who grow and tend to the cacti was achieved. Lopez said, “ It makes our work more meaningful because this isn’t only about fashion and the environment. We also somehow want to support workers in the fields and create jobs, even indirectly.”
It is a good thing these 2 were not discouraged. Shame on those who tried to discourage them.