Indian Textile Startup Malai Creates Vegan Leather Made From Coconut Waste

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Coconut leather is the latest eco fabric to hit the fashion scene for sustainable leather alternatives. India-based startup, Malai, have developed bacterial cellulose grown from leftover coconut water and successfully converted the biocomposite into a substance that resembles traditional leather.

Founded by Slovakian designer and material researcher, Zuzana Gombosva, and product designer and mechanical engineer, Susmith Suseelan, residual water left from coconut processing plants is paired with bacteria whereby after two weeks of culture growth, the jelly that forms over the outer layer becomes bacterial cellulose – this raw material which Gombosva and Suseelan have also named Malai. Cellulose, a molecule, is the main substance in walls of plant cells that help them to remain stiff and upright (Ie, think of celery – if you snap it in two, you’ll see the fibers of cellulose, which allows the plant to stand up). The new Malai material is then processed and refined, blending with other natural fibers like bananas, hemp or teak leaves to create durability and texture, made water-resistant and air-dried to give the natural fibers their characteristic leathery properties. Free from synthetic materials or plastic coatings, the pliability and its adaptable nature gives the option to greatly expand Malai’s possible applications. “Our production process doesn’t harm any animals, Gombsova said in a statement. “It consumes less resources in terms of energy and water during manufacturing, and uses no toxic chemicals any stage of its production cycle.” Currently working with European brands, Malai is focused on partnering with conscious labels with plans for expansion in the Indian market and elsewhere.

As the vegan revolution takes hold in the world of fashion, the first ever Vegan Fashion Week is taking place in February where cruelty-free has become the new luxury. On the big screen, vegan actress Natalie Portman has donned an all-vegan wardrobe in her new film, Vox Lux. Tennis champion, Serena Williams, has launched a vegan clothing line inspired by strong women to express their individuality. In Asia, the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition, Redress Design Award recently awarded Australian designer Tess Whitfort for her punk-inspired collection made from up-cycling and zero-waste techniques, design and eco-friendly inks.

Learn more about other sustainable leather alternatives.

Image courtesy of Malai


  • Jenny Star Lor

    Jenny Star Lor is Green Queen’s resident eco wellness writer. She is passionate about reducing her carbon footprint, loves all things fitness and enjoys tasting her way through Hong Kong’s veggie dining options. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls Hong Kong home. Previously, she wrote and reported for global publications such as The Hollywood Reporter and US Weekly. She is also a passionate pole dancer and teaches classes across Hong Kong.

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