More Than Water: Malai Design & Materials


Recently there has been a huge uptick in the use of one particular fruit; coconut. Coconut water is flying off the shelves, coconut oil is being used in every room of the house, and coconut flavor is infused into dishes at almost every restaurant. It seems only natural that an option would be developed to wear coconut, and that is exactly what Malai Design & Materials has given us. The brand is the brainchild of Susmith Suseelan, an expert product designer, and materials scholar Zuzana Gombosva. These two men, from India and Slovakia respectively, joined forces to create a solution to what they saw as the harmful impacts of the leather industry. Malai is the name they’ve given to this new vegan leather which uses bacterial cellulose to turn coconut water into a material easily used to make timeless accessories.

We work with the local farmers and processing units, collecting their waste coconut water (which would otherwise be dumped, causing damage to the soil) and re-purposing it to feed the bacteria’s cellulose production. – Malai


This innovative fashion business is based in Kerala, India and utilizes coconut water from coconut processing factories which would otherwise discard it. Susmith and Zuzana went through a lengthy process of trial and error and have finally perfected a material which can be used for luxury-quality bags, jewelry, and shoes. The result is a leather-like alternative which is durable, flexible, and completely compostable once the product’s lifecycle is up. All items made out of Malai’s material are done so without plastic coatings or toxic chemicals. About 1,056 gallons of water is collected each day from coconut-processing “units” and on average which can be transformed into more than 3,400 square feet of Malai, and saving it from becoming a wasted resource. Malai is another tasty trash to treasure story which keeps our eyes set on innovative materials!