• Home
  • News
  • Fashion
  • From tequila scraps to the new most sustainable vegan skin

From tequila scraps to the new most sustainable vegan skin

By Christin Parcerisa


Scroll down to read more


Adrián López Velarde y Marte Cázarez con una muestra de Desserto Agave

Four years ago, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez Duarte from Mexico created an alternative material to animal skins by transforming cacti (nopal) into a bio-material called Desserto. This vegan leather has become one of the preferred materials for fashion brands seeking to offer more sustainable products around the world. Now, López Velarde and Cázarez Duarte innovate once again with the creation of the first agave-based vegan skin.

FashionUnited talked with the creators of Desserto, and founders of the Adriano Di Marti company, about the creation of this new material and how agave leather is not only an alternative to animal leather, but is also an opportunity for more sustainable practices in the tequila industry.

“Since we started Desserto we haven’t stopped in our research and development efforts, and we realized that there are other fibers in Mexico that could give us the same raw material, or even better. We investigated which iconic plants in Mexico could work and, of those, which represented more waste. That’s how we realized that agave was the one we should work with next,” Cázarez Duarte said. "The tequila industry, which is very important in Mexico, produces a lot of waste throughout its process. It leaves behind a lot of organic waste, like leaves and bagasse, so we saw an opportunity to investigate how to transform it into something more."

The tequila industry in the state of Jalisco is not only a cultural emblem, but it also has a strong economic impact. The national production of agave (the plant used for making tequila) amounted to 1,519,000 tons in 2020, of which 74.3 percent came from Jalisco, and generated estimated revenues of 24,650 million Mexican pesos in the state. However, just as the industry has continued generating revenue and keeps growing internationally, the amount of waste it produces and its impact on the environment are also on the rise.

Fotos cortesía de Desserto Agave

It was precisely this impact that caught the attention of the founders of Desserto, and for some years they analyzed how to apply their technology to transform agave into leather. “In Mexico, approximately 360,000 tons of bagasse are generated each year. This is usually thrown away or sold to brick factories where they burn it and use it as a cheap fuel source that generates air pollution and ashes, so it’s not sustainable at all,” López Velarde shares. “So, we saw an opportunity for the tequila and the fashion industries to work together in a sustainable way.”

This is how Desserto Agave Limited Edition was born. This new bio-material allows the tequila and agave production chain to expand and reach the fashion industry. Not only is the tequila industry innovating in the way they produce their product, but it’s now contributing to the creation of ecologically conscious products.

From tequila to fashion

Unlike its flagship product, Desserto, for which the company grows the nopal and uses it as the raw material for their alternative leather, for Desserto Agave the company doesn’t grow the agave plant. Instead, they collect the agave waste from different tequila factories and then process this waste and turn it into their sustainable material. For their first production, they processed 12 tons of bagasse with which they generated 1 ton of raw material ready to be transformed into this sustainable material. This ton of raw material was enough to create approximately 8,000 meters of agave leather. While that sounds like a large amount of material, there's a lot more where it came from. López Velarde shares that for every liter of tequila that’s produced there are approximately 7 kg of bagasse generated.

Converting the scraps from the tequila production into a new textile lengthens the life of the agave plant, which takes between 6 and 7 years to be harvested. Once it's cut, it's processed into tequila, but the fiber isn't required, so it becomes trash. Now, this waste has a new life by being collected and processed again to become Desserto Agave. “The tequila makers didn’t believe us when we told them that we were going to pay them for their waste. They are used to seeing it as garbage. But we did. We sent a truck to collect the bagasse and we paid them for it. It’s a very good way to generate added value to the abundant raw materials that already exist in Mexico. There’s so much potential,” he says.

Although the raw material is abundant, the process of converting the agave that was formerly used to make tequila into a new vegan leather was not easy. Developing a new material is a complex challenge, even for Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez Duarte, who have spent years strengthening their experience and working on machines and specialized technology for this. “Working with agave is totally different from working with nopal. Agave is even more complicated because of the type of fiber it has, which is tougher. However, starting the process was a little easier because we already have the machinery and the experience calculating times, processes, and development. So this time it was easier and faster to develop a new fiber,” Cázarez Duarte explains. His partner adds that the fibers they rescue are very hard, so the machinery to process them had to be redesigned. “We have been improving our technology with Desserto and that allowed us to make adjustments to the machines in order to process tougher fibers. However, at first we believed that it wouldn’t be possible because the machines could break. Our team of engineers had to think about which were the necessary adjustments that were needed to finally make this material.”

The new material, Desserto Agave, can be used in the same way as cactus (nopal) leather, so for bags, wallets and accessories. One of its differences is that this new material is softer to the touch. In addition, it has up to 89 percent organic content. It also smells a little different. Unlike nopal leather, which has a sweeter aroma, like a cookie, agave skin smells more like nature, earth, something older.

“I was very happy when it first came out because we thought we weren't going to be able to process the fibers. The first roll we pulled was a shade between brown and orange, which is similar to the color that bagasse has when it’s wet. It reminded me of how complicated it was and how we risked a lot, like the machines, to create it. But in the end everything turned out well and now there is a new alternative in the market,” they say.

Desserto Agave
Next gen materials