Simon & Mary's vegan cactus leather hats will prickle your fancy

29 November 2020 - 00:00 By Catherine Del Monte
Simon and Mary cactus leather range.
Simon and Mary cactus leather range.
Image: Supplied

In a bid to move away from producing environmentally unsustainable and unethical textiles, fabric innovation has taken a front seat in the fashion industry and entrepreneurs are looking in their fruit baskets and at their local flora and fauna for inspiration.

Last week, South African milliners Simon and Mary launched a range of hats made from a vegan cactus leather; a capsule collection of classic baseball caps and bucket hats in black, beige and cactus green.

"The material works beautifully with the styles we've gone for — the colours and shape of the product," says Simon and Mary's Dean Pozniak.

The cactus leather is imported from Desserto, a Mexico-based company.

Unlike traditional leather, which is made from animals and uses large quantities of water and toxic chemicals during the tanning process, cactus leather is partially made from "Nopal" cactus, also known as the prickly pear.

The vegan leather is characterised by its highly sustainable, partially-biodegradable, cruelty-free properties made without toxic chemicals, phthalates or PVC.

Simon and Mary cactus leather range.
Simon and Mary cactus leather range.
Image: Supplied

The advantages of using the cactus appear multifold. Not only is the plant a carbon sink, the plant relies solely on rainwater. It grows in abundance in Mexico, and causes minimal disturbance to the ground.

The founders of Desserto, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, liken harvesting the cacti to having a haircut: the mature leaves or pad of the cactus are cut off and within a few months start growing again.

Grown on their plantation, the leaves are cut, cleaned, mashed, dried, treated with non-toxic chemicals and shaped into different textures in different colours which are produced using their own natural dyes.

The result is a vegan leather that is soft to the touch and durable, with the potential to be used in the fashion industry as well as the automobile and furniture industries.

The cactus product is an exciting new direction for Simon and Mary. The range is released along with the launch of the long-anticipated Simon and Mary online store where the new pieces, along with the rest of Simon and Mary's classics, are just a click away