We all share common traits as humans, but none more visible then what covers our entire body, SKIN. It serves as an element of our beauty, an indicator of our past, a obsession of our vanity, but most of all a shield to our body. Although it is essential to our survival, over time we have adopted second skins to layer upon our body's, only to serve the same purpose our own skin serves but at a heighted degree. To name the most obvious, Animal skins have been used since man has stood upright, and as we are all aware, are widely used to this day. Technology has allowed us to recreate these animal skins to cut down on cost of production and as a positive byproduct, lessen the amount of animals killed and environmental damage in processing. With this being said, alternative materials such as artificial leather, faux fur, pleather, moleskin, Koskin (used in HP computer bags), ultrasuede, poromerics, all come from synthetic materials such as polyester and polyurethane and generally don’t give a lot back to the environment.
Thankfully, due to the fast moving popularity of sustainability and eco awareness, positive alternatives to our second skins are slowly trickling onto the market. One such advancement, although not at new idea, is cork. Although or first thought might go to the porous board you pin your bills onto or the plug at the end of your wine bottle, cork has been used in the clothing trade for some time and is now finding a new use as an alternative to leather.
Durable, natural(ecologically sound), biodegradable, and of course 100% cruelty free, Cork Leather textiles have more benefits then most people may think. As for texture, it feels like no other material on the market, soft to the touch but with the firmness of leather (since it is wood). Stable, its wear resistance is due to its chemical and physical structure and is close to immune to micro-organisms. Considering its low surface dust absorption level, its hypoallergenic, and with proper surface coatings, dust, dirt and grease repellent properties as well.
The best element about this material is that it is truly sustainable. The cork oak tree is not required to be cut down as only the bark is peeled off and the tree is allowed to regenerate. “The cork oak is a slow growing tree that can live from 170 t0 250 years, which enables the stripping and harvesting of the cork to occur 16 times during its lifetime on average. The harvesting cycle typically occurs every 9-12 years, but only occurs once the tree is allowed to mature from sapling to an age of approximately 25-30 years, at which time the trunk has at least a circumference of 70 cm.” (http://sustainablematerials.com/cork/).
So many companies are realizing the sustainable material movement is not just a passing faze( as with the organic food market) and are tapping into the potential of this market. As with organic food, the sustainable fabrics market has started off pricy (cork fabric starting off at $169 yrd), but with time and investment in the advancement of technology with materials, prices will even out.