Leather has been an essential element of the fashion industry for a long time. Over the years, people have realised the harm it causes to animals. Now, many stay away from using leather. Malai, a Kerala-based company, exploits this opportunity. Malai, run by Zuzana Gombosova and Susmith C. Suseelan, offers a sustainable and vegan alternative to leather. It makes fashion accessories with flexible, durable and bio-composite material made from coconut water!
Both Zuzana and Susmith wanted to make a healthy and natural fashion choice. This thought led them to experiment with bacterial cellulose in coconut water. This eventually marked the journey of Malai.
They formed a tie-up with a coconut processing unit in South India to collect coconut water. After fertilisation, the coconut water is prepared for bacterial culture. The fermentation process will bring a sheet of cellulose jelly. This will, later, be harvested, refined, and reinforced with natural fibres, resins, and gum. The final outcome will be a flexible material that can be moulded into sheets.
These sheets later transform into various products such as briefcases, bracelets, bags and purses. The products are available in dusty pink, cumin yellow, cutch brown, light indigo, dark indigo, leafy green, madder red, and dark grey shades. The final look can be matte, semi-glossy, or completely glossy depending on the use of water or oil-based coatings. The process does not use toxic chemicals and uses fewer natural resources.
Malai collaborates with companies like Kazeto, Crafting Plastics, TON, and Ma-tt-er. Malai is open to experimentation. It has recently attempted its application in shoes. Malai’s aim is to venture into other domains and continue experimenting. The best part is once you are done using the bag, you can dispose of it in the compost bin.