Deadwood’s new vegan leather jackets are made of cactus

Thanks to two cowboys from Guadalajara, the brand has found a source for properly sustainable faux leather.
March 25, 2021

Sustainable leather goods brand Deadwood came to life when founder duo Carl Ollson and Felix von Bahder started a vintage clothing store around a decade ago. Their love for vintage together with a willingness to shake up the Scandinavian fashion culture steered them to making leather jackets of their own, only using people’s old clothes as raw material.

— We still do that to some extent, tells Ollson, but have moved on into trying to make the leather industry somewhat more waste efficient using post-production waste and deadstock or leftover skins. Our retailers include Selfridges, Net A Porter, Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, and Zalando.

With sustainability in mind, they still wanted to manufacture and distribute leather jackets from scratch. The founder duo wasn’t (and still isn’t) fans of pleather (plastic fabric made to look like leather). Instead, they created their own capsule from a new material that they could both approve of.

Tell us about your new Cactus Capsule — how did the idea come about?

— A friend tipped me off while on a trip to Paris about these two cowboys from Guadalajara, Mexico, who started doing leather from cacti plants. I found it very interesting and went online to find this New York Times article about them. I read up some more and eventually reached out, says Ollson, and adds:

— It has a really beautiful feel to it. Very leather-like. But still different. The process to extract the material is basically that of harvesting cacti leaves that you dry and mix with a couple of other natural materials creating almost like a paste that is being smeared out onto a flat surface. When it hardens it creates this leather-like fabric.

When making faux leather clothing from scratch, manufacturers usually turns to pleather, which has been around for about 100 years. From an environmental standpoint, pleather is less harmful to cows and uses significantly less water than real leather. But the PVC and polyurethane found in modern pleather is a poisonous and non-biodegradable material, which further adds to the fashion industry’s long list of unsustainable side effects.

What’s wrong with the pleather jackets, as you mentioned?

— Where do I even start. It’s complete and utter BS! In the beginning, they used rubber to make it. A pretty environmentally friendly way to do it actually. But with time the demand skyrocketed. China became the go-to country of origin for mass production and fast fashion retailers lined up. A couple of years back some in-house marketing team, I guess, from a producer of the material came up with the genius idea to re-brand it as Vegan Leather. A way to wash off the increasingly bad rep the fabric had gotten over the years.

— From one day to another this ”bad” fabric had been greenwashed into something the consumers thought to be a more conscious and good thing. Great PR, shit fabric, Olsson concludes.