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Innovating Mexico

Promoting responsible consumption by producing innovative vegan and nopal cactus-based leather

In Mexico, the nopal cactus is a cherished delicacy among nationals. Now, this plant - which even appears on the national coat of arms - is employed in the manufacturing process of vegan leather as a primary ingredient. Balancing environmental concerns with the elimination of animal cruelty has been the driving goal of its young creator. In addition to being a typical Mexican food, the nopal cactus is now used to manufacture clothes.

Esmeralda Márquez is a young Mexican innovator who, at the end of 2022, fulfilled one of her dreams. In reality, the young Mexican woman had two concurrent dreams. On the one hand, she wanted to have her own clothing line. On the other, she wished to strengthen her commitment to environmental protection.

This is why she founded Merecoy, a fashion brand that applies innovation in the fashion industry. Esmeralda found out that by using nopal cactus she could obtain a more flexible and durable type of leather than that of animal origin. Moreover, in doing so, the process also avoids the usage of toxic chemicals.

For the past two years, Merecoy has been using vegan cactus-based leather as its main product and as a way to differentiate itself from traditional brands that still use real leather.

"The cost of vegan leather and its durability is practically the same as that of an animal skin; Merecoy is trying to make a difference in a highly polluting sector: the fashion industry," Esmeralda said in a recent interview with a Mexican newspaper.

Vegan skins of different types have been developed in recent years as an alternative to avoid the practice of animal cruelty in the provision of supply for the textile industry. According to PETA, more than a billion cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos and even dogs and cats are cruelly slaughtered for their skins every year.

However, eliminating animal cruelty does not make the production of leather-made textiles fully sustainable. This is where the innovations, that have been developed over the last few years to achieve plant-based biodegradable leather production (i.e. totally environmentally friendly), come in.

“In this way”, Esmeralda - who is also a designer - points out that "Nopal-based leather has the advantage of being a sustainable material, that is, free of toxic chemicals, phthalate compounds and PVC. It was created with the purpose of being an alternative in favour of the environment and animal care".

The innovation proposed by this young Mexican woman is part of the efforts underway to produce leather from different plants. So far, the most common alternatives are cactus, pineapple, mushrooms, and corn.

In Esmeralda's case, the use of the nopal cactus is also tied to Mexican identity. In addition to being present in many landscapes throughout Mexico, nopal is a widely used ingredient in Mexican food.

The enterprise of this young Mexican woman is also dedicated to the production of handmade textiles made from natural fibres.

At the end of this year, Esmeralda will present her new collection of creations. This collection will include handmade embroidery, as Merecoy wants to remain a brand of handmade products.

If you would like to receive more information from us or to get in touch with the developers, do not hesitate to contact us: 

At TRACKS, our job is to connect ideas to promote projects that become Innovation Environments with Social Emphasis.


Fuente: Cámara Nacional de la Industria Textil.

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