Cork fabric offers sustainable alternative to faux leather

Some designers view artificial leather as an environmental problem, such as Canadian-based designer Morgan Mallett. She recently introduced a sewless collection made of sustainable and ethically-sourced Portuguese cork fabric. Her inspiration for the collection was the material itself, which is tough, tear-resistant and waterproof, and also a way to avoid using faux leather, which contains microplastics.
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One of the looks from the Sewless collection, made from sustainable and ethically-sourced cork fabric. - Design-and-conquer.com

"Consumers are tired of buying clothes whose quality deteriorates after few wears and washes. We are all becoming aware of the incredible damage our culture of consumption and planned obsolescence is having on our world. There is a significant rise in the number of people who want to know how and where their clothing is made. Consumers have more power than we realise," Mallett said in an interview.

The transition from designing jewelry to clothes has not been easy for her. "There is much more planning required when you are designing clothing—especially when you are importing materials from another continent. I found myself making more than twice the number of prototypes than usual, as more was at stake re: time and materials costs," informed Mallett whose sewless collection have been made from sustainable and ethically-sourced Portuguese cork fabric.

Talking of the sustainable material used in the sewless clothing collection, she explained, "I have used black and white cork fabric which looks so stunningly unusual all on its own. I intend to continue working with sustainable materials—it’s what we need to be focusing on as designers."

Mallet says designers and clothing manufacturers need to take a close look at what goes into their apparel. "Microplastics are a huge concern for the planet, and I realised last year that all of my faux-leather clothing in my closet contained plastics. I also observed that most of it was either disintegrating or wearing out quickly. I did some research, and ordered some cork leather samples. I was amazed at how the fabric performed and how tough and light it was. We are used to seeing cork being used for limited items in North America: wine corks, cork boards, and cork flooring. Cork textiles are quite a different entity—tough, tear-resistant and naturally waterproof."

Mallet believes that sustainable fashion is gaining in momentum but the established fashion system poses a real challenge. "It has been with us for so long, and it has been a huge financial success. When a sector generates so much income, it’s hard to create change and convince stakeholders to shift towards a new way of operating. I think the mental shift—not the mechanics of physical change—is the big hurdle for sustainability in our industry," she said. 

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