You know, a lot of very important things that are very important to us came originally from trees: the first tool, for example (probably no more than a small twig). The first fire as well, when lightning struck a bare, dry trunk. Sustenance, from fruit. Shade, shelter. We, as human race, have spent a lot of time looking at trees thinking about them and how to take the best advantage of them, and have used everything they’re made of, from root to sap.
It’s also just impossible to figure out when tree bark, in particular, was first put to use but, today, a particular kind of tree bark travels regularly to space, serving as isolation against many kinds of cosmic rays as well as spacecraft dampeners – you know, spacecrafts receive quite a kick trying to reach escape velocity and leave our planet.
But look away from the vast, flat launching sites of spacecrafts and dreams and focus your eyes now on wavy plains, ravaged by yellow and purple spring flowers where placid oaks stand still against the Portuguese Alentejo winds. Their skins are bare, hacked carefully away with small axes assembled just for the task of extracting its bark.
Look closer still. The oak is left to grow a new coating, and the harvested tree bark is put into trucks that converge to processing plants that treat it, mold it, skewer it and change it into new objects, from cork stoppers, clothing, from chairs and benches to insulating sheets resting between the walls of hydro plants or labyrinthic nightclubs.
From the cork harvester, with his ax, letting the oak’s trunk breathe so its bark can sustainably grow again to the manufacturer working at the processing plant; from the truck driver transporting the tree bark from one place to the other, from the tourists visiting Alentejo and its landscapes of naked oaks, placid hills and vast, flat stretches of land, look again to see the bigger picture: that of an entire industry revolving around a specific bark of a tree, an industry that creates local jobs, helps in the development of the Portuguese hinterlands regions of Alentejo and Ribatejo and plays a central role in environmentally-friendly practices applied to world of fashion, construction and design, among others. It also helps nature: when you protect the oaks from where you extract your bark, you protect and reclaim the nature around it and foster the habitat of many different species of plants and animals, from the pennyroyal herb to the black stork. This oak tree, and its bark, we feel, also represent everything our brand is about: it represents the healthy, sustainable relation between man and nature, doesn’t involve the destruction of natural resources or living things, and helps us grow alongside with it. This oak’s bark is very special, and we’ve been working it into our collections from our very beginning as a brand.
It’s called cork and, among many of its practical purposes, we use it to make bags.