The search for renewable resources has always been an important one, but something that was mostly relegated to the energy and oil industries. We have spent decades looking for ways to generate power without burning things that we will eventually run out like oil and natural gas. However, in recent years, we are noticing a large push to expand this search to other renewable ways to produce common materials we use every single day. One of those materials is fabric and leather.
Although you might say that leather is renewable, since we can breed more animals, but the problem is that breeding more animals to sustain our mass amounts of leather production would require so much space and so much food for those animals that it eventually becomes entirely infeasible, and the population of people who require fabric and leather is exponentially expanding. In comes the magical material of cork.
Cork is a 100% sustainable wood bi-product that doesn’t even involve the chopping down of the tree. The cork can be harvested by professionals, and a few years it grows back on the tree and even comes in smoother. Frequently cork is taken from the Oak tree which can live on average 200 years, which means 17 or so harvests in its lifetime.
Here are just a few reasons why cork and wood fabrics are so useful:
LIGHT – Leathers and fabrics made from cork and wood are incredibly light because the volume of cork, for example, is 50% air! More material and less mass are a match made in heaven when it comes to fabrics.
WATERPROOF – A suberin, which is a waxy substance, is present in the cell walls of cork which make it resistant to water. Materials that are resistant to water are also resistant to deteriorating over time, which makes it very durable and waterproof.
BURNS SLOWLY – Cork processed into fabric actually burns very slowly! This might come as a surprise, but cork has a naturally low combustion and makes it a great flame retardant material.
WEAR RESISTANT – Due to its cellular structure, cork and wood are actually fairly abrasion resistant, and will not damage easily from friction due to the high friction coefficient.
SOFT – Despite being made of wood, the fabric is soft to the touch due to cork’s natural soft and spongy texture. They use it for wine bottles for a reason, they form to whatever shape they need to be.
COMPLETELY UNIQUE – There are no two pieces of wood and cork that are alike, so when the material is turned into a fabric, each piece is completely one of a kind and unlike any other.
Cork and wood fabric is here to stay, and hopefully will continue to get better. Some companies are already finding some amazing uses for it, like Carved that turns them into perfectly unique and durable wallets. I am sure that purses are next, and pretty soon clothing and art. The best thing you can do to help this trend is buy into it, because if companies start to sense people like this material they will devote more resources to something renewable and good for the Earth rather than leather, which can be inhumane and difficult to maintain in this ever-growing demand for production.