Cork is an unconventional fabric to find in a clothing store, which is ironic, given its versatility and potential. Putting aside its reusable, recyclable, and 100 percent natural properties, oak trees absorb up to 14 million tons of CO2 every year. In addition, cork fabric production keeps well away from heavy metals, using only organic solvents and mineral fibres. So apart from being vegan, durable, waterproof, and fire-resistant, items made from cork quite literally save the planet.
‘The world is changing. Nature tells us we need to change,’ says Neri Yasar, founder of NY Cork. Selfishness and sustainability don’t go hand-in-hand, she says – our world is borrowed from future generations, and we have to look after it. For those putting themselves out there and searching for sustainable fashion alternatives, Yasar recommends a healthy dose of curiosity and resilience. ‘We discover things only if we are open to discovery,’ she adds.
She reminisces the day the head gardener of her previous workplace announced that an oak tree must be cut down. ‘When I checked the tree, I realised something was different. It didn’t seem dead to me. I discovered that this is the natural process of cork trees. If I hadn’t researched, we would have cut it down, and we could have never known!’ she says. It was this day that inspired her to study design in Italy, follow her heart, and set up NY Cork. From practical shoes and classy clutches to modern phone cases and statement bracelets, NY Cork is taking the world by storm.
Yasar believes that more and more people are consciously trying to buy ecologically and lead sustainable lifestyles. And although many countries still face difficulties in breaking traditions and moving forward, influencers are becoming role-models for the public. ‘We have the Internet, and we have the media, so it’s easy to get all kinds of information. Companies are also changing, and producing more ethical products. The movement has already begun,’ she says.
‘We are still miles away from where we have to be,’ Yasar admits, although NY Cork is doing its part in educating their customers about sustainability and the difference that each purchase from their store can make. ‘I don’t just want to be the person who produces cork items. I want to be the person who leaves something in this world for future generations,’ she says. NY Cork is working towards expanding its reach across the globe, making a difference on a larger scale. At the moment, each product sold plants a pine tree.
‘We do not produce before we finish our stocks, and we are converting some of our old models into new models,’ Yasar says, explaining her disagreement with fast fashion trends. ‘[Fast fashion] is just a part of a fast-consuming system, and it is taking us to the end if we do not change,’ she adds.
And perhaps this change can start in the woods. Cork is harvested from the outer layer of the park of the oak tree. Every nine years, counting from its 20th birthday, the tree sheds its skin, and continues to do so throughout its lifetime. The process being ompletely harmless to the tree itself, peeled bark is then processed into a fabric. ‘Since we do not yet harvest in Turkey, we buy our fabrics from abroad. We give some designs to the factory to produce, we buy ready, or we design some of them after we buy the basic cork,’ Yasar explains. Sometimes samples need to be re-worked a few times before finished products can be sent to their partner stores, ready to combat fashion trends and make a statement.
Fashion, as nature intended. Completely sustainable, unbelievably versatile, and incredibly beautiful, cork might just be the staple wardrobe item we didn’t know we needed.