One of our favourite materials to work with is cork.  It is a great alternative to leather, along with our extensive range of faux leathers of course.  Cork is a great sustainable alternative as it is harvested from trees without killing it.  

What is cork fabric made of? 

Let's start here, what is cork?  Natural cork fabric, also known as cork leather, is made from shavings directly from the cork oak tree, or Quercus suber. The medium-sized, evergreen oak tree is native to northwest Africa and southwest Europe (Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Algeria Tunisia, and Morocco).  Most cork on the market today is from Portugal, the world leader in cork production and home to the largest collection of cork oaks. The tree species is a unique and valuable one. It has dark grey bark that’s thick and knobby. Inside that is where “cork” is found.

How is cork made? 

Cork fabric starts with harvesting, where the outer section of the bark is peeled back to reveal the inner cork. This can be done without harming the tree itself because the outer bark is able to regenerate itself! In fact, some have suggested that harvesting cork can extend its life.   Once it’s 25 years old, the cork can be harvested every 9-12 years without causing permanent damage to the bark. For the average cork oak (which can reach 200+ years old), 16 harvesting sessions can sustainably take place. No machines are required to harvest the cork, either. A simple axe (like the ones used thousands of years ago) is all it takes.   After the cork is harvested, it’s laid out to dry for about 6 months.  Then, the cork is boiled in water, flattened, and moulded into whatever material it will be used for.  We buy ours on a roll.

Is cork eco-friendly? 

Not only can cork be harvested without harming the tree, but especially compared with leather, its production is much less detrimental to our planet. It doesn’t produce waste when being extracted or processed, nor does it contribute to air or water pollution.   It does produce some wastewater, but given that nothing is required to cure it (unlike chemicals like cyanide and chromium used in leather tanning), it can be returned back to the earth without causing damage.   Even when scrap cork is produced, it can be reused by other industries. If that doesn’t happen, it can be returned to the earth because it’s 100% biodegradable. It can even be added to your green bin!

What do we use cork fabric/cork leather for? 

We love using cork leather where we need a sturdy material.  For our plat pot baskets, our snack bags as well as our accessories.  Cork leather adds a stylish and durable factor to our bags and its lightweight structure has been an all-time favourite with our customers.  

So, how durable is cork? 

Cork was the material of choice for NASA’s space shuttle Columbia! 497 pounds from 225 trees were used to insulate the tank’s storage centre for the super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen used to power the engine. If NASA used it for a spacecraft, we think it’s safe to say that your cork leather purse can withstand the occasional drop and rummage in your bag. In fact, it’s probably sturdy enough to last a lifetime, making it a Mother Earth-approved way to accessorize.

Ready to give it a go? 

I hope this has helped your understanding of all the wonderful benefits of using cork accessories rather than leather.  Let's start a sustainable lifestyle together and look after our planet.  Browse our collections of snack bags, bags, purses and homeware where we use cork leather in many of our designs.