Photography + styling: Jana + Koos

Time-honoured millinery meets conscious innovation with Simon and Mary’s new range: Cactus Leather. 

As the fourth generation to join his family’s hat business in Johannesburg, Dean Pozniak has worked to bring sustainable practices to the factory floor. Interested in an alternative to animal leather, his research led him to plant-based leather being made from cactus in Mexico. After some time in development experimenting with this innovative new product, Simon and Mary now launches their first range of hats made from cactus leather: a capsule collection of classic baseball caps and bucket hats in black, beige and cactus green. “The material works beautifully with the styles we’ve gone for – the colours and shape of the product,” Dean says. “We’ve also introduced a new ingot that features our Simon and Mary hat icon.” 

Made from nopal (a type of cactus and also the name for its pads), cactus leather is a highly sustainable, partially-biodegradable, cruelty-free material made without toxic chemicals, phthalates or PVC. It requires much less water to farm and manufacture than animal leather does. Both soft to the touch and durable, the potential to be used in the luxury, automobile and furniture industries is tremendous and Simon and Mary are one of the firsts to adopt the material. 

The range was shot by long-time collaborator Koos Groenewald of Jana + Koos on a road trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town via the Karoo where cacti and indigenous succulents grow readily. With a box of the hats in the car, he stopped whenever he saw something interesting, jumping fences to use cacti as models on the roads into and out of towns like Graaff-Reinet and Prince Albert. He looked for species that showed a bit of character and could wear the hats well. 

The Cactus Leather range is an exciting new direction for Simon and Mary. “We want to continue working with it and may look into other products away from headwear,” Dean says. The range is released along with the launch of the long-anticipated Simon and Mary online store where the new pieces, along with the rest of Simon and Mary’s classics, are just a tap away. Online store will launch Wednesday 28/10.

About Simon and Mary: 
Simon and Mary is a heritage brand for a new generation.

Launched in 2014 by our family of milliners in the business since 1935, Simon and Mary honours the past but is inspired by the contemporary.

Family is in the bones of our business. The factory in Johannesburg stands as it did half a century ago. New designs or classic shapes are made with the same trusted machinery from the ‘60s by experienced machinists whose own children have inherited their skills and now work and grow within the business decades on.

The first Simon and Mary collection was presented on the heads of Johannesburg’s creative class; the brand has always been inseparable from the city. Over the years we’ve partnered with local creative collaborators like Jana+Koos and Trevor Stuurman to tell our story visually.

Simon and Mary has cultivated a community of loyal enthusiasts who, like the brand, uphold individuality, style and the finest quality.
Instagram: @simonandmary