What is Cork Leather?

So what is cork leather?

To answer that let’s first look at what exactly cork is:


Cork is harvested from the Cork Oak tree, which grows primarily in the West Mediterranean Basin. The cork used in our cork fabric comes from sustainable forests with strict harvesting regulations that are in place to protect the valuable resource and regulate the quality. 

When the Cork Oak has reached the age of maturity the bark is periodically stripped in sections. It’s that bark that is used to make cork leather. This eco-friendly process doesn’t hurt the tree - in fact the Cork Oak is the only tree that benefits from the removal of its bark and since it regenerates it’s bark naturally it is a symbiotic and sustainable process.

After being harvested, the cork is left to air dry for six months. Then it is boiled and steamed to get even more elasticity. Heat and pressure are applied to cork to press it into blocks, which are later sliced into thin sheets that can be transformed into a multitude of wonderful cork leather accessories. Unlike the heavy chemical processing required to produce animal-hide leather, cork leather production relies predominantly on pressure and steam.

Abalone cork leather wristlet by White Rhino Bags

Is cork leather vegan?


Cork leather does not contain any animal derived materials and is an incredible alternative to animal-hide fabrics. It is available in a wide range of colors and can even be sourced in skin-like textures that mimic different leather finished quite accurately. It’s a win win situation. Even the most enthusiastic leather fanatic would appreciate the versatility and beauty of this vegan fabric. 

Is cork leather durable?

I know what you’re thinking, how can a fabric made out of plant bits be durable in the long run? Maybe when you hear the word ‘cork’ you think of an old dried up wine bottle-stopper or an old school bulletin board crumbling apart. If you’re looking for an alternative to animal-derived leather but are unsure if anything else will be as durable Stop. Right. There. 

Despite your initial perceptions, cork fabric won’t crack or crumble. In fact, due to its very simple and natural processing it is flexible and extremely durable while retaining it’s wonderfully plush and soft touch. It is stain-resistant, water-resistant, scratch-proof, hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, lightweight, incredibly soft, and flame retardant. Cork leather can be wiped down with a clean gentle cloth, a little soap and water.

Is cork leather eco-friendly?

Designing with cork leather

Cork is one of the top eco-friendly fabrics out there. It is truly an eco-conscious and sustainable natural resource. In fact, the same tree can be harvested every 8-10 years for over 200 years! Once harvested, the tree absorbs about 5 times the CO2, making harvesting an important process in reducing greenhouse gases.

In cork production the tree is not cut down to obtain cork; only the bark is stripped to harvest the cork in sections so the tree continues to live and grow. The sustainability of production and the easy recycling of cork products and by-products are two of its most distinctive aspects. 

We love cork leather!

I hope you have enjoyed learning about cork leather! It is truly unique and has such amazing properties. Designing with cork has been a wonderful experience, and I am so grateful that sustainable, vegan fabrics like this are becoming more and more accessible to small design houses like ours here at White Rhino Bags. Being able to remove animal-derived materials from the fashion industry and offer cruelty-free, eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives to the mainstream is what it’s all about!

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