Cork: In everything from clothing to fashion accessories, it's popping up all over December 27, 2016 13:11

Cork. It's not just for wine stoppers and bulletin boards anymore. Embraced by some progressive furniture makers decades ago and a staple in housewares, cork has found a larger place among shoes, handbags,...

Embraced by some progressive furniture makers decades ago and a staple in housewares, cork has found a larger place among shoes, handbags, jewelry and other fashion accessories.

"I think we're in a very natural vibe right now, and a very green vibe. Cork works with that. It's just something unique. This season it has really hit its high point," said Alison Minton, who blogs about accessories at Accessorygeneration.com.

 "I think that it's on its way to becoming something permanent in the marketplace," Heinkel said from Amelia Island, Fla. "I used to live in Spain, and I found the handbags on a weekend in Portugal, and I'm having a lot of fun with it. I used to go to the trade shows and I would have to kind of bang the drums to get people's attention and explain, but now it has its own momentum."

Turner, fond of natural materials that also include raffia, started using cork about seven years ago to further her tropical vacation aesthetic.

 "It's very malleable so it translates easily on handbags and shoes. And it's highly durable. There are no issues with fraying or pulling apart like the raffia. People love it for travel," Turner said. "It's also cost-effective."

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Cork is the thick outer bark of mature trees and fully regenerates over cycles of about 10 years, until quality falls off after seven cycles or so. Cork extraction is one of the most environmentally friendly harvesting methods, and cork production provides a sustainable livelihood for people in many parts of the world, according to the WWF. Portugal is the biggest producer and the primary source of diversification of cork into accessories.

Ohad, who teaches at the New York School of Interior Design, said cork remains on the outskirts of forward-looking furniture after it appeared to be resurfacing a few years ago.