The Bobobark bag
The fashion industry is one of the world’s worst polluters, producing microfibers that end up in the world’s oceans, amongst other impacts.
And so the creators behind a designer bag are hoping that their fashion item will actually be beneficial to the environment – as the bag is made from cork tree bark.
Natacha Seroussi and her father Elie are the owners of Laflore, a Paris fashion brand which created the “Bobobark bag”.
“I’m a young designer and my father co-founded Cécile et Jeanne and has 30 years of experience. We wanted to share our passion for design, as well as a mutual concern for our environment’s future. We didn’t want women to have to choose between luxury, style and ethics.”
The handbags industry is by no means an easy market to enter. The average American woman owns 11 handbags and purchases at least two every year, but those numbers are changing. More and more consumers are moving away from fast fashion, with retailers under threat from the $24 billion second hand market.
“We’re moving away from blind consumerism,” Natacha says, “and women want one bag to answer all their needs.
“And with environmental questions and animal welfare being more and more relevant, a lot of women are also looking into ethical and eco friendly alternative.”
Father and daughter team Elie and Natacha
Leather alternatives are usually made out of synthetic materials, and eco-friendly options, such as organic cotton and canvas are “often bulky and rough,” explains Natacha.
“This is why we decided to create a brand that is not only high quality and super practical but also 100% sustainable and vegan, all this while preserving the timeless Parisian chic.”
“I started my journey to design the perfect bag two years ago specifically to answer those needs.”
Laflore is less than a year old, but its Bobobark bag has already had more than $1 million pledged by Kickstarter funders.
“We knew that the decreasing of sale in the handbags industry came from a radical change in women’s expectation,” Natacha continues. “We noticed that no brand was really offering a solution for a versatile bag for work and play, with all our knowledge in the bag industry we knew we had the tool to answer that need by combining timeless chic, high end and contemporary requirement.”
The cork material is collected from sustainable oak forests in Portugal, with the leftover cork made into chipboard, ensuring nothing goes to waste.
Cork collecting takes place every seven to nine years, when bark is stripped from the tree. The process actually aids tree growth, and each time the cork is harvested, the trees absorb more CO2 in the bark regeneration process.
Regularly harvested cork trees store three to five times more CO2 than unharvested trees.
After the cork is collected, it’s dyed with natural pigments and oils, and polished until it becomes soft and supple.
“Today brands like Mat and Nat or Stella McCartney are the leaders in vegan handbags and accessories,” Natacha continues. “Their designs are mostly made out of plastic and that material is becoming less and less popular among women thanks to its cheap reputation and harmful impact on the environment.
Natacha cites smaller ethical brands such as Nuwai, Bark and Leaf, and Maniwala as competitors, but says they “mostly follow the market trends when it comes to their style”.
“We would like to think that we stand out in the crowd.”
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