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Cork – tree ‘leather’ that will surprise you

September 14, 2016

When we discovered cork as a possible material to use for our bags, we immediately fell in love. The reasons for that are manifold. Its qualities are outstanding on various levels – the sustainable tradition of its extraction, the renewable character and the nature of the material itself. But let’s start at the beginning.

Before we even started designing any of our products, we conducted systematic research on available natural materials that would fit our company philosophy. One such material we came across was cork. The endurance, light weight, as well as its appealing look gained Bernadette’s interest. She began looking into more details on the material and explore possibilities of its use.

Cork harvesting has a very long tradition in the Mediterranean region, the home of cork oak trees (Quercus suber). The tree is perfectly adapted not only to the natural ecosystem, which due to the arid to semi-arid climate faces frequent fires, but also to its human cultivation. It even requires human use to sustain, as recent research showed. The tree has played a crucial role in the economic activities of its inhabitants. The forests are a perfect example of a sustainable practice of agroforestry, which is combined with agriculture, livestock farming and hunting.

The extraction itself begins when the tree has reached an age of about 25 years. As cork is a part of the bark, its removal doesn’t cause any harm to tree but simply regrows. After 9 years it is ready for the next extraction. In the progress of regrowth the cork oak binds around five times the amount of CO2 than other trees.

Most of the cork harvesting is done in Portugal, where we also source our cork. We use the highest quality available on the market in form of so called cork leather. These very thin layers of cork give the material high flexibility and unique softness, while it stays extraordinarily enduring. The material is amazing to touch and wear on the body, some of our costumers even want to take their bags to bed because of they are so cosy!

Cork itself protects the tree from fire and is insulating. For its usage for bags it has further amazing and practical qualities: It is resistant to water and most fluids. No matter if it is red wine, hand crème or oil and any kind of other dirt can be removed easily through organic soap and a sponge. Further, it is extremely light, which makes it so much more attractive to use compared to other bags, for example made of leather.

When we started to spread the word of making bags out of tree bark, some people reacted hesitant. They expected them to look too ‘ecological’ and not stylish, or to feel somehow unpleasant to touch or wear. It’s always exciting to us to watch people’s reactions when they first see and touch our bags. Just like we did, everyone falls in love.

When is your turn?