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Desserto, Ictyos, TômTex : Better than leather?

Katie Nichol

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Desserto, Ictyos, TômTex : Better than leather?

Continuing our exploration of leather alternatives, we feature three new materials hailing from the vegetal and animal worlds.

Desserto - cactus leather

Mexican firm Adriano DiMarti is behind the development of Desserto, a vegan leather made of Nopal, or prickly pear cactus. Mature cactus leaves are cut and sun-dried, with the by-product sold to the food industry. The plant’s fibers and proteins are separated and blended with a bio-polyurethane polymer and organic pigments to color the resin, making a cactus bio-resin with 50% - 60% cactus content. The leather is backed on a recycled textile, but can also be used without a backing. Desserto, which is said to be “partially” biodegradable, is particularly durable while also being very soft to the touch. Its color, texture and thickness can be customized – printed with different patterns, embossed or debossed.

Ictyos - marine leather

Sustainable tannery Ictyos, founded by French chemical engineers, creates marine leather from fish skins—salmon, sturgeon and carp—recovered from the food sector. A vegetal tanning process using tree bark, roots, leaves and fruits transforms the skin into leather. The leather is said to be highly resistant and exceptionally supple, with a unique grain and homogenous color. The use of pigments and dyes make for a wide range of color possibilities, while decorating techniques include hot stamping and embossing. The marine leather, which can be sewn and embroidered, has applications in fashion, leather goods, watchmaking and luxury packaging. A collection based on plant-based inks is in the pipeline.

TômTex - seafood leather

TômTex, created by Vietnamese designer Uyen Tran, is a plastic-free bio-material targeting the luxury goods and high-tech industries created from chitin from shellseafood waste. Positioned as a sustainable alternative to imitation and animal leather, the composite biomaterial can be stitched, dyed with natural dyes and is said to offer properties closer to natural leather than traditional synthetic alternatives. Metal molds are used to create textured surfaces. TômTex can also replicate the look and feel of materials including plastic, rubber or silicone. R&D is still ongoing to develop the material and the coating option; for the moment the coating is either beeswax or Shellac.

This article originally appeared in the winter 2020 issue of our sister publication Formes de Luxe.

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