Indian startup develops leather using coconut water, hemp, and waste banana

December 28, 2020 |

In Kerala, India, a two-year-old startup is making a leather-like material from coconut water and waste fibers. Dubbed Malai, which is Hindi for “cream” as well as the milky part of the coconut, the material is textured, water-resistant, and biodegradable. 

The company was founded by Zuzana Gombosova, a Slovakian fashion designer, and CS Susmith, a product designer based in Kerala.  

“I liked my job as a designer before Malai, but I was also fully aware of how much we fill our world with goods in the name of design,” Gombosova tells Hindustan Times. “I wanted to create and develop methods and materials that didn’t have such a negative impact on our environment. The idea with Malai is to create a vegan alternative to leather that is eco-friendly to make and dispose of.”

The process involves fermenting water from mature coconuts to produce cellulose, which is then added to hemp fibers, sisal, and banana stems. 

The material is already being used to make bags, wallets, and shoes. Products are available on the company’s website from Rs 1,800 to Rs 9,500. Riti, an Indian brand, as well as United Kingdom’s Ethical Living and Germany’s Lucky Nelly are also using the material in their products. 

“Malai looks and feels as good as leather but it doesn’t have the cruelty that leather has,” says Arati Krishna, founder of Riti. “We have made a host of accessories from it, including wallets and bags. And it makes me happy that it is made in India.”

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Category: Chemicals & Materials

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