As a Spaniard, cork is no stranger to me, but I was largely unaware of cork production in South Africa. Grethe explains that cork oaks also grow on the austral tip of the African continent; however, it is difficult to find sustainable plantations dedicated to the industrial use of this distinctive tree bark, so she imports a large part of this material from the world’s largest producer, Portugal. “It’s a shame I can’t use local raw produce,” Grethe says with a shrug, “but most of the companies in my area do not meet the necessary characteristics at the moment, or even manufacture cork fabric yet. I hope this changes in the future.”
Choosing cork over other vegan options, such as plastics and various other synthetic fibers was precisely because of its inherently self-healing and renewable characteristics. Grethe also only selects it by manufacturers who are very careful with every step of the cork harvesting, processing and distribution system. “For me it is essential that the goods I sell are completely sustainable, and that includes the entire supply chain. For those items made of other materials, I use 100% recycled plastic from PET bottles and natural fibers from palm leaves,” Grethe declares, referring to some of the other products in her online store, such as dog beds or cushions. A quick pass through her website is enough to appreciate the quality and care put into it.