A Step For Change In Fashion: Mexican Nopal Leather

Adriano di Marti | DESSERTO

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

Adriano di Marti is a company founded by two Mexican entrepreneurs, Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez. The company is dedicated to producing high-quality vegan leather, named Desserto, made from nopal cactus for the fashion, furniture, and automobile industry while complying with the most rigorous quality and environmental standards. Through Desserto, the company is positively impacting Mexican farmers making industry from a resilient and abundant crop; while, helping the environment reduce the carbon footprint, save water and eliminate toxic waste (from the tanning process) vs animal leather. Adriano di Marti wants to grow awareness about the environmental impact current textiles have and has the vision that Desserto will help to transition to a more sustainable fashion industry. Pursuing this vision, Adriano di Marti is also taking care of an important stakeholder of the industry where change may be catalyzed: designers. The company puts at their disposition Desserto below minimum order quantity (from a stock the founders buy) for their prototypes and help them link with factories to produce them.

Authors

Daniela Ubilla

Daniela Ubilla

Daniel Delgadillo

Daniel Delgadillo

Cinthia Liliana Hernandez Macias

Cinthia Liliana Hernandez Macias

Edgar González Herrera

Edgar González Herrera

School

EGADE Business School Tecnologico de Monterrey

EGADE Business School Tecnologico de Monterrey

Professor

Ezequiel Reficco

Ezequiel Reficco

Innovation

With the mission to create an alternative to animal leather for the automobile and fashion industry, Adriano di Marti developed a patented process after 2 years of investigation to transform plant-based raw material into high-quality leather.

They chose a type of cactus that originated in Mexico, opuntia ficus-indica, or better known as nopal. This plant is part of Mexican culture and is an abundant, resilient, and low-input crop. Nopal grows in arid zones and can absorb water from the rain, so for growing them irrigation water is not needed; they help to control soil erosion. Also, it is a perennial plant so if you cut mature leaves, the nopal plant remains unharmed.

A Step For Change In Fashion: Mexican Nopal Leather

Inspiration

Adrian and Marte had different backgrounds before Desserto. Adrian worked in Asia in the automotive and furniture industry and Marte in Mexico in the fashion industry. When they gathered, they discover that their industries had a lot of raw materials in common. They discussed the environmental impact the raw materials had during the fiber obtaining process (whether plant, animal or crude oil is energy and pollutant-intensive) to the garment production, going through bleaching and dyeing process (the latter responsible of 36% of the greenhouse gas emissions of the total textile process).

The textile industry is accountable for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, nearly the emissions of the European Union. It is forecasted that for 2030, it would reach today’s U.S. levels of emissions. They discussed how we are living outside planetary boundaries and how a change is needed to ensure industry growth. After this, they decided to quit their jobs to create a company that could provide high-quality products that could impact the environment and society positively.

Overall impact

Through a patented process, Adriano di Marti developed cruelty-free, toxic chemicals free, and partially biodegradable sustainable products. It has the potential to replace other materials in the fashion and automobile industries, by ensuring high-quality standards. At the same time, it provides a link with the agroindustry, usually poorly paid in the food industry, with the two economically active industries mentioned, potentially bringing important benefits to marginalized communities. They support and advise start-up businesses to use Desserto for their emerging luxury brands, guiding more people towards sustainable materials.

Business benefit

Developing a sustainable, high-quality material that could be used in the fashion and automobile industry at competitive prices, represents a unique business opportunity for the company to develop. As well as, potentialize its positive effects to all their stakeholders. Only the leather industry worldwide represents US$100 Billion per year. The consumer trends are moving towards vegan and eco-friendly alternatives, expecting the vegan leather market to grow with a compound annual growth rate of 50% per year, this represents a huge opportunity for the business.

Proof of the acceptance of their products is several awards they have received internationally in the last months such as:

  • Material ConneXion Seal of Material Excellence and it being featured at the New York Material ConneXion. Material ConneXion is the world’s leading platform for Fortune 500 brands to discover innovative and sustainable material solutions
  • MONTE-CARLO FASHION WEEK 2020 Sustainability Award for its contribution to fashion sustainability, the world’s first cactus vegan leather.
  • Selected by the Green Product Award 2020 as the winner in the Materials category.
  • LVMH Innovation Award 2020. 2nd place, special mention, and favorite of the jury in the category of sustainable materials.

Social and environmental benefit

Social Impact

According to the Mexican Institute of Statistics and Geography, during 2018 in Mexico, laborers and farmworkers received an average salary of $167MXN/day. There is a social impact since the industry in which Desserto plays, is one with high value-added products that give the possibility to pay much better salaries and improve the living conditions for the workers. This is especially valuable since Desserto has the plantations in zones where the cactus is native, that are typically marginalized rural zones in Zacatecas and Jalisco. With the growth of the cactus vegan leather, this could boost the economy in those zones and extend to other rural zones in Zacatecas, Jalisco, San Luis Potosí, Morelos, Estado de Mexico, Aguascalientes, and Guanajuato.

Environmental impact

Desserto's innovative product competes against traditional leather products that come from cows, this could represent less demand for cow leather which has enormous benefits. For example, according to DeMartini (2017), cattle are the highest methane producers. On average a cow generates 200 liters of methane per day. Furthermore, livestock spews 14.5% of all greenhouse gases (methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases) released to the environment, more than 50% coming from cows. Also, the cows' manure contains phosphorus and nitrogen that can run off with rainfall into local waterways, generating algal blooms that eventually produce toxins that are harmful to drinking water.

The vegan leather also avoids the typical tanning process, considered one of the most toxic industries as it involves the usage of chemicals (e.g. Chrome, that is known for its cancer-causing effects and water contamination). For example, a study showed that 69.000 tons/year of chrome salts are used only in India. The World Bank calculates that around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment. The tanning process is responsible for pollution from highly toxic chemicals such as chrome, chlorates, phenols that in Asia and Latin America alone harms the health of nearly 2 million people (Harris & McCartor, 2011). Approximately one ton of leather represents up to 80 cubic meters of contaminated water that is discharged to the soil or to the oceans (El-Bestawy, Al-Fassi, Amer, & Aburokba, 2013), whilst Desserto vegan leather represents zero emissions of that kind.

Saved irrigation water consumption ~6,100m3 per hectare/year (Gollehon and Quinby, 2000) vs other Cactus plantation with irrigation systems. Cactus plantations are perennial, one plant has a productive life of 8 years, different from other C3 plantations which hast to be cultivated and harvested every cycle. Cactus absorb CO2 during the night, generating oxygen and absorbing water present in the air. Cactus needs approximately 200 liters of water, absorbed from the air, to produce 1 kg of dry matter against other C3 plants that need on average 1000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of dry matter. Mature leaves are dried under the sun, with no additional energy used in this drying process (~3GJ/ton material).

Fully organic: no herbicides nor pesticides used, avoiding soil and water contamination. Additionally, the cycle generates no wastes since the byproducts are sold to the food industry.

References:

Banchon, Carlos & Baquerizo Crespo, Ricardo José & Muñoz, Diego & Zambrano, Leila. (2016). Coagulación natural para la descontaminación de efluentes industriales (Natural coagulation for the decontamination of industrial effluents). Enfoque UTE. Enfoque UTE. 111-126. 10.29019/enfoqueute.v7n4.118.

Bioenciclopedia (2015). Nopal. Bioenciclopedia. Retrieved from: https://www.bioenciclopedia.com/nopal/

DeMartini, A. (2017). Reducing the Environmental Impact of Cows' Waste. The Ohio State University. Retrieved from: https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/reducing-the-environmental-impact-cows-waste

Fleischmann, M. (2019). How Much Do Our Wardrobes Cost to the Environment? The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/09/23/costo-moda-medio-ambiente

Mwinyihija, Mwinyikione. (2010). Main Pollutants and Environmental Impacts of the Tanning Industry. 10.1007/978-1-4419-6266-9_2.

Taylor, T. (2018) Clothing and textile manufacturing's environmental impact and how to shop more ethically. Retrieved from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-04-03/fashion-environmental-impact-of-your-favourite-textiles/9382382?nw=0

Interview

Adrian Lopez Velarde, Co-founder

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Adriano di Marti | DESSERTO

Adriano di Marti | DESSERTO

Guadalajara, Jalisco, MX

Business Website: https://desserto.com.mx/

Year Founded: 2019

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Adriano di Marti is a company founded by two Mexican entrepreneurs, Adrián Lopez and Marte Cazarez. The company is dedicated to producing high-quality vegan leather, named Desserto, made from nopal cactus for the fashion, furniture, and automobile industry while complying with the most rigorous quality and environmental standards.