Say ‘CORK‘,and the first thought that comes to mind, is a wine stopper, swiftly followed by a ‘POP!’sound from an enthusiast doing the honours, then me instinctively dodging the assailant as it goes flying through the air, for the preservation of sight.

Second, is the inevitably confrontation with fuddy-duddy accessories at any given charity shop and the many encounters on my travels abroad.

Until recently, my view on Cork was akin to that of ethical fashion a decade ago. I could never understand why the styles were so drab, simple and sometimes tacky. After all, they are still material and there is no limitation on the design, or is there?

Other creative industries including Design, Architecture and even NASA have managed adapt it for there own creations and are hailing it a sustainable and heroic material, but the same cannot be said for the fashion industry.

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It’s lighter than water,tactile, hard-wearing, sound absorbent, fireproof, water-resistant, easy to transport. So what’s not to embrace?

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Truth be told, I have never considered cork a fashionable material, and wouldn’t have be catch dead with cork accessories. – That is, until , two years ago, when these ethical Pozu kicks hit my radar.And albeit Campers dabbling and Birkenstock’s legendary use of cork , for me, these bad boys pack the best swagger thus far.

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Pondering, I asked myself – If cork can look so edgy on shoes, why can’t the same be said for apparel? WHY, is it not more widely used as a yarn for clothing? and WHY is the fashion industry slow on the uptake. In hind sight, all the cork garments I’ve come across are usually very structured, rigid and mainly shown on the catwalk, or as conceptual piece. That said, whilst researching for this post, I came across the first quirky accessory I would be pleased to wear.

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LASER CUT BANGLE (Klara Plaskova)

On my eco- anxiety free quest to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I have discovered, amongst many other things, that textile recycling has come leaps and bounds in the last 5 years; that certified organic cotton is less of a pollutant, that hemp is biodegradable and new sustainable textiles like Tencel have been created. I’ve noted the experimentation with fabrics grown from kombucha, and Vegan leather, which is currently having a moment. However,The durability of many of these textiles is still short term, man made, and producing micro plastics when washed, which leaks back into the ocean.

Ultimately, Like everyone else, I still need to buy and cloth myself, regardless of how little or excessively I shop – (the former applies) – ; but as a consumer, there is a limit to what can achieve, as I am bound by what’s on offer, be it from a charity, fabric or clothes shop.

Whilst I acknowledge the huge steps taken by some parts of the Fashion industry to become more sustainable and transparent in the way they operate, most have targets that won’t be realized for the next five years or more. – again I still need to wear clothes – hence it seems a no-brainer not to further explore and embrace a natural sustainable material starring us right in the eye which is NOT, at all shabby.

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Who knew Cork bark is the oldest Natural (not man made) chemical-free, carbon-neutral, material in the world! That it’s trees are fast-growing and harvested only once every nine years throughout their 200-year lifetime.

The best bit is, the trees do not need to be cut down to harvest the cork, as it comes from the bark, hence avoiding deforestation. As a material, it lasts decades, is biodegradable and every part of the cork bark, right down to the dust from production can be used to power furnaces in factories.

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Perhaps a good starting point for the fashion industry will be to reconsider how they source leather, as this trend isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. and although faux /Vegan leather seems to be having a moment, most of them still contain plastic. Embracing cork leather, as showcased by Canadian designer Morgan Mallett’s collection will be a more sustainable way forward.

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CORK LEATHER SKIRT (Morgan Mallet Design + Conquer)
CORK LEATHER DRESS (Morgan Mallet Design + Conquer)

There is zero waste in the process because garments can be cut from a whole piece of cork leather. It’s light weight, hypo-allergenic, comes in many colors, doesn’t have that horrible wet leather smell experienced courtesy of the London weather, and looks like the real thing!

CORK LEATHER TOP (Morgan Mallet Design + Conquer)

In progression, I recently came across a collaboration between a Portuguese textile designer Susana Godinho and Amorim cork ventures who created beautiful , modern and tactile hand made rugs by weaving cork, linen and wool together on traditional looms. I believe the same concepts can be applied to apparel, making them more robust and longer lasting, but alas, the conundrum of recycling mixed fabrics remains.


With Portugal blessed enough hold the the lion share of cork, It’s comes as no surprise that their fashion designers and textile companies are at the forefront of experimenting and innovation. Atlas, Cork-A-TEX have now produced a cork yarn suitable for clothing, which is a massive game changer to the versatility of cork, and the fashion industry.

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I now know that the natural properties of the cork material which include lightweight and waterproof, make it a winner for outerwear which needs more of a rigged structure; and whilst I’m more than happy to rock these laser cut top and skirt, (as they work on many levels creating edge, and great laying pieces ) – now is the time to explore this new yarn, as it is softer and no stranger to the good old fashioned sewing machine.

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LAZER CUT SKIRT – (Klara Plaskova)

Personally, I believe the availability of cork yarn combined with other creative techniques like vegetable dying, screen printing, embroidering, weaving, and perhaps collaborations between difference genres of creatives, means the fashion industry is now in a position to produce ‘ready to wear’ clothes that can be flattering, edgy, sustainable, less structured in texture, whilst simultaneously knock years off their sustainability targets.

On the social political side, cork farmers in Portugal are very well paid, as it is quite a skilled job, hence it will be a fairer, more ethical, and symbiotic relationship, from the get go; That is, provided the fashion industry doesn’t get greedy, and stays integral to their sustainability mantra.

LAZER CUT TOP – (Klara Plaskova)

I’m not naive enough to think that this will happen over night, as logistical factors such as availability of the yarn, transportation, training of garment workers, along with a long scroll of other issues that need to be taken into consideration will be on the horizon.

There is also the cost price from source to production, which will then be passed on to consumers like moi. This price point is key, as it will determine weather a teenager, as well as a higher earner will have the choice of buying sustainable pieces, which will encourage ‘slow fashion’ .

Again, I acknowledge that the Fashion industry is working harder to become more sustainable – most notably some brands are opting to up-cycle or sell off dead stock, as opposed to burning them; and some have introduced clothing recycling programs for consumers, (which allows the brands to spin the old fibers into new clothes. – However, the very alarming state of landfills, compounded by the level of pollution from the industry, demands quicker and more radical solutions that won’t create environment problems further down the line.

With 21st century technology, and investments from the textile and fashion industry, there is no reason why Cork yarn should not be the most obvious new, yet old sustainable solution, and I for one, will not avert my eyes from it, SHOULD AND WHEN it becomes main stream.

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