Innovation That Matters

To create the material, coconut water is sterilized and fed to bacterial culture | Photo source Malai

Startup develops compostable vegan leather from discarded coconut water

Fashion & Beauty

The enterprise sources leftover coconut water from a factory in Kerala, India to create seamless items such as purses

Spotted: The India-based vegan materials startup Made From Malai developed a compostable vegan leather from bacterial cellulose found in discarded coconut water.

Before finding success with coconut water, Slovakian designer and material researcher, Zuzana Gombosva, and product designer and mechanical engineer, Susmith Suseelan, spent five years testing over 150 formulations. 

To create the material, coconut water is sterilized and fed to bacterial culture. The product then ferments for up to two weeks. The jelly that forms over the outer layer becomes bacterial cellulose – this raw material which Gombosva and Suseelan have also named Malai.  

Next, the Malai is harvested, refined and mixed with banana, hemp or teak leaves to create durability and texture before it is air-dried. This is done to give the natural fibres their characteristic leathery properties — such as being water-resistant.

“Our production process doesn’t harm any animals,” Gombsova said. “It consumes less resources in terms of energy and water during manufacturing, and uses no toxic chemicals any stage of its production cycle.” 

Made from Malai is currently exhibiting its prototypes to potential manufacturers with the aim of partnering with conscious labels for greater expansion into the Indian market and elsewhere. 



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