Never heard of cactus leather before? That’s okay – neither had the rest of the world until last year, when the aptly named Desserto was launched. The Mexican-made material is the first cactus-leather product on the global market, and it quickly collected a bunch of design awards, ending up on the list of finalists for the big-time LVMH Innovation Award.

Now, in an Australian first, cruelty-free handbag brand A_C Official has created its entire nine-piece Raison d’Etre collection from the plant-based textile.

“I titled this collection Raison d’Etre, meaning ‘reason for being’, because this collection – and this brand – is the result of really finding my purpose,” says A_C Official founder and designer Tessa Carroll. “I’ve been in the fashion industry for over 15 years, and I have watched in horror at the waste and pollution caused by its sheer existence. I started this business in the hope that technology would catch up to my ideals.”

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Desserto is just the kind of innovation she was looking for. While it may seem natural, animal leather is usually made with the help of highly toxic chemicals that harm the environment and prevent the finished product from degrading. And the cattle farms the industry depends upon are the source of devastating levels of global deforestation.

Desserto’s crop, by contrast, is low impact. “Cacti do not require much water to survive,” says Carroll. “They are native to Mexico and regrow very quickly, making them easy to regenerate. The innovators also only pick mature leaves from the plant, which is crucial to protecting the land from soil degradation.”
The company’s cactus fields don’t need irrigation, relying on rainwater to grow instead. And unlike other vegan leather options, such as the plastic-derived polyurethane, cactus leather isn’t fossil-fuel dependent, meaning it’s both more climate-friendly and partially biodegradable. Importantly, the soft, breathable material looks and performs like leather, making it ideal for a handbag line.

“I’m so excited for this collection, as for me no other plant-based textile has entirely bridged the gap with mainstream fashion the way Desserto does,” says Carroll.

From its inception, A_C Official set out to offer timeless, sustainable handbags that prioritise the planet and people over profit. “We like to say we’re not anti-leather, we’re just pro-planet. It’s 2020 – it’s too late to be environmentally friendly. We need to be environmentally beneficial.”

The minimalist Raison d’Etre range features clutches, slimline wallets and even a backpack in black and white styles, with pieces ranging from $109 to $389.

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