H&M Is Using Cactus Leather in New “Science Story” Collection

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Mar. 3 2021, Updated 11:19 a.m. ET

Vegan cactus leather is going mainstream. Fast fashion company H&M recently announced a partnership with Desserto, and soon, a new H&M collection will feature cactus leather.

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cactus leather desserto
Source: Desserto

What is cactus leather?

Mexico-based company Desserto, which debuted in 2019, makes the only cactus leather on the market. The team creates the fabric by turning organic nopal cactus leaves into a partially-biodegradable material that resembles leather, but is completely vegan. The fabric can then be used to make a variety of products, including bags, shoes, clothes, boxing gloves, furniture, and car interiors.

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Desserto founders Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez developed this material not to design their own items, but in hopes of selling it to fashion companies — and this deal with H&M is one of Desserto’s biggest partnerships so far.

H&M’s newest collection will feature Desserto’s cactus leather.

hm cactus leather collection
Source: H&M

H&M shared the news in a blog post on its website revealing the Science Story collection, which is meant to explore “the future of sustainable fashion” and boost innovative, sustainable textiles.

The collection will feature Desserto’s cactus leather as well as EVO by Fulgar, a bio-based yarn made from castor oil. Fulgar claims that EVO is a completely renewable resource, it does not require much water to grow, and it does not take any arable land from food agriculture.

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According to H&M, the Science Story collection is using these innovative fabrics to create “modern and experimental garments” with “unexpected design elements.” Pieces including neon strappy heels, a chunky necklace, a collared crop top with a huge pocket, and white wide-leg jeans with an extra removable waistband that floats a few inches above the regular waistband.

hm cactus leather vegan
Source: H&M
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It’s unclear exactly what the cactus leather will be used for — the only item that has a leather look is the heels — but the Science Story collection will presumably include more pieces than the ones revealed in the announcement.

“Our new concept continues H&M’s journey towards a sustainable and circular fashion system. Innovation Stories allows us to develop and grow, all while creating desirable and long-lasting pieces that we hope our customers will love and be proud of,” H&M creative advisor Ann-Sofie Johansson said in a statement.

You can shop the Science Story collection on H&M’s website starting on March 18, 2021 in the U.S. and Canada.

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H&M is still a fast fashion brand.

With stores in 62 countries, H&M is the second biggest retailer on the planet, according to Good On You. H&M has been under fire for its factories reportedly using child labor, for burning mass amounts of unsold clothing, and simply for using wasteful fast fashion practices.

But the chain has made a few strides toward reducing its environmental impact in recent years — in addition to incorporating more sustainable fabrics, H&M also offers a clothing recycling program (though some have called it a scam), and the corporation has set a slew of sustainability goals.

While many zero-waste or eco-minded customers may choose not to shop at H&M, it’s still important that a brand this huge is slowly shifting from fast fashion practices and towards using sustainable materials — we just need the shift to happen much faster.

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