Malai – (noun) a newly developed biocomposite material made from entirely organic and sustainable bacterial cellulose, grown on agricultural waste sourced from the coconut industry in Southern India. 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. One small coconut-processing unit can collect 4000 litres of water per day, which we can use to make 320 sq. meters of Malai.


Malai is a flexible, durable biocomposite material with a feel comparable to leather or paper. It is water resistant and because it contains absolutely no artificial ‘nasties’ it will not cause any allergies, intolerances or illness. It is a completely vegan product and as such you could even eat it!*


*but it’s way too pretty for that…


The word ‘Malai’ refers directly to the creamy flesh of the coconut and it is the coconut water (a by-product from the harvesting of this flesh) that sustains the bacteria whilst they are producing the cellulose, which is then in turn collected and refined until it becomes the finished material: Malai.  

We can produce it in sheets (with a range of thicknesses) and we have also developed a process whereby we can create seamless three-dimensional objects using a moulding technique.  Malai is available in a range of colours achieved through the use of mordant-free natural dyes, and it can develop a soft sheen or patina over time.

A product made from Malai will last many years if properly cared for, however should you wish to have a clear-out, it can simply be placed in with your compostable rubbish and it will naturally break down.

Material samples stockists :

Materio Paris, Material Lab London, Happy Materials Prague, Material Driven London, Material Connexion New York, Neuni Shanghai, Matter London,, Materfad Barcelona



Our start-up company specialises in creating and developing bio-based materials. 

We research and explore methods and sustainable resources to produce new biomaterials with impeccable environmental credentials due to our emphasis on the use of wholly natural and healthy materials. We then take the journey further, developing technology to process this material to a point where we can design, mould and make it into seamless accessories and products.


We are inspired by the beauty and purity of natural materials, and by the life-cycle and ecology of the coconut palm in particular. We work in close partnership with the local coconut farmers and processing units in our region of South India who provide us with their waste coconut water, the primary resource we need to start the growth of our bacterial cellulose, which will eventually be transformed into Malai. We also collaborate with local communities of makers as well as working with suppliers whose ethical approach is transparent and verified.

In 2019 Zuzana was awarded EDIDA ( by Elle Decor Czech Republic) in category  Talent of the year for her work on project Malai.

In the same year we successfully ran a crowdfunding campaign on Czech platform and raised over 18 000 Eur for further development of machinery necessary for producing Malai biocomposte. At the same time we launched our first collection of accessories under Studio Malai brand.

in February 2020 Malai was awarded India’s biggest fashion sustainability award when it emerged as a winner of the Circular Design Challenge ran by IMG Reliance & UN India presenting our unique approach to circular fashion.


Zuzana is a material researcher and designer from Slovakia. She is a graduate from MA Material Futures at Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design.


Susmith is a product designer and maker from Kerala. He is a graduate of MDes Product design & Manufacturing at IISc Bangalore and has a background in mechanical engineering.


They met in Mumbai in 2015, by which time Zuzana had already been working for over three years on bacterial cellulose as a material.  She was keen to explore the potential in India for employing a traditional bacterial-cellulose growth process used in the Philippines, where ‘Nata de Coco’ (the Filipino version of this substance) is an important part of the food industry.

The name of Susmith’s home region can be literally translated as ‘the land of coconuts’, which given the circumstances, was a good sign!

Having started experimenting with growing materials on a small scale, before long Zuzana and Susmith discovered they shared more profound values, a passion for craft and making as well as a concern for sustainability and the environment. Oh, also, not only do they both love a good coconut but they are firm believers in coconut karma whereby people who behave badly will one day have a well-deserved coconut fall on their heads as punishment!

Currently we are a small team of less than 10 people consisting of labour staff in our workshop, 2 directors, sales representative, a bunch of talented interns & external consultants, 6 cats and one dog.

In 2017 we moved to a coconut-cultivating region in Southern India and began working full-time to develop Malai and to consider in what context this new material could be applied.  We chose to target it towards the sustainable fashion market, because of its aesthetic appeal and with a view that fashion is the second most polluting industry, beaten only by oil.

Our studio & manufacturing unit are currently based in Cherthala & Fort Kochi, Kerala. 

If you are interested in visiting us or our studio please drop us an email at : with a clear explanation of reason for visit, proposed dates & a brief introduction of you / your company.