Hello green urbanites and welcome once again to Tanja’s Eco Chic where we bring to you green fashion brands & trends!
Just to refresh your memory, this new column brought to you every first week of the month is where we introduce you to personally handpicked eco fashion brands by our very own green fashionista Tanja! These brands are every bit up-to-date with the latest fashion trends, but at the same time are green, sustainable & responsible. So be it denims, evening wear, minimal sneakers, jewellery or off-shoulder tops, discover the go-to eco fashion brands under this new feature column every month! We also invite all like-minded readers to participate and send us your suggestions or a brand you want us to explore!
Well readers, it’s true – it can be quite difficult to be ‘eco-minded’ when you’re out on a shopping spree. Diving through tanned leather goods even though they’re full of toxic chemicals, sifting through summer dresses and tops that maybe made out of pesticide laden cotton but are after all on 70% off does make it seem as though choices are rather limited. But don’t worry! It’s time for Tanja’s Eco Chic to feature another sustainable fashion brand to help you expand your green choice one brand at a time!
Green fashion accessories by MR & MRS CORK
We love our wine and some of us even collect corks as mementos of fabulous times over a good bottle. But did you ever think cork could turn into trendy fashion accessories from wallets to jewellery or even umbrellas? It’s definitely our new favourite ethical fashion material!
So for this month, I was lucky to catch up with Geoffrey Costilhes – one of the co-founders of Mr & Mrs Cork. To give a bit of background, Geoffrey and I met during a University exchange semester in Canada. Back in 2013, we would talk about sustainable fashion on the ski lifts somewhere in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, but little did we know that only three years later his stylish Parisian start-up would kick off with such aplomb!
Mr & Mrs Cork has a fabulous and quirky range of products offering you everything your heart might desire – bow ties, belts, umbrellas, wallets, handbags, jewellery, shirts, phone cases, card holders – you name it!
In March, Geoffrey presented Mr & Mrs Cork to the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hildago, during a start-up event. By the looks of it, Anne Hidalgo was very impressed by this innovative ethical fashion brand and even bought a cork wallet (style: Le Pratique).
It was a delight to chat with Geoffrey and find out more!
What is the story behind Mr & Mrs Cork?
Geoffrey: It all started on a night out in Paris. I went for a drink with friends and decided to wear a bow tie made out of wood by Oncle Pape (great brand, by the way!). Throughout the evening, I noticed that the wood material was quite uncomfortable. Before putting on a bow tie the next time, I decided to experiment a little bit, replacing the wood by cork and essentially got a first-hand experience of the benefits that cork provides. Before I knew it one thing lead to another.
What are the advantages of cork?
Geoffrey: Oh there are so many! It’s almost too good to be true. Are you ready? Here we go – first of all, cork is feather light and won’t weigh you down in any way. Cork is also robust, lasting for decades without signs of deterioration and is resilient to scratches. Our signature material is also waterproof, stain resistant and very easy to maintain. You simply need a splash of water, some soap, et voilà! But don’t think that the only benefits of cork lie in its material-based credentials. Cork is beautiful with unique patterns and a soft texture, similar to suede leather. And recently, I even got into cork packaging for champagne bottles.
What are the specific ecological perks of cork?
Geoffrey: Cork is 100% natural and therefore fully recyclable. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When cork is harvested, they simply remove the bark from cork oaks. As a result, the trees remain completely unharmed by this process. In fact, cork oaks are native to the Mediterranean region, which is the reason for our Mr & Mrs Cork branch in Portugal. And here’s a fun fact– according to the Portuguese law, there is a fine of 25,00,00 Euros for oak deforestation attempts!
In what other ways is Mr & Mrs Cork environment friendly?
Geoffrey: For every purchase of a Mr & Mrs Cork product, we commit to plant another oak tree. As cork oaks are known to retain 30% more CO2 than other trees, the cycle of growing and harvesting cork is, believe it or not, considered beneficial. And since processing the cork material is chemical-free, no toxic or heavy treatment is involved. What a great material, right?
How did you get into eco-fashion?
Geoffrey: I was always very interested in fashion, but fashion schools are really expensive! Instead, I studied Micobiology and acquired work experience at Institut Pasteur in Paris. You see, I’m an ecologist. So bringing together my passion with my studies ultimately led me to eco-fashion.
Tell us about the name Mr & Mrs Cork?
Geoffrey: Since cork is our signature material, the other co-founders of Mr & Mrs Cork, Grégory Sequeira, Paulo Pinho and I decided to fully embrace the material in our company’s name. Then, we added Mr & Mrs to underline the fact that we offer products for both men and women. In fact, we also have trendy articles for children now! They are very cute!
Is your company also socially conscious?
Geoffrey: Yes! As a matter of fact, we are. This leads us to the question – Who made your Mr & Mrs Cork items? 30% of all Mr & Mrs Cork items are made by designers in France. We believe that they have a certain savoir-faire. The other 70% of our products are carefully handcrafted in an atelier that employs physically disadvantaged individuals just outside of Porto – very near to our cork producer. We wanted to create jobs by helping these people learn how to use sowing machine with the goal to give them a place in the working world despite their physical impairment. For us, it is very important that we are not only environmentally friendly but also socially responsible.
Why do you think eco-fashion is making waves now?
Geoffrey: There are several things that catalysed this new eco-trend. Nowadays, there are famous people, such as Leonardo di Caprio, who are extremely environmentally conscious. Especially those who are star struck will follow his lead. He is a great example. Then, there are events such as COP21 in Paris that stress the importance of responsibility even further. But the most meaningful event was without a doubt the horrible building collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013. That is when the world became more alert to ethical fashion. And of course our new means of communication – the rise of social media definitely helps to spread the word and to get the ball rolling.
Do you think that ethical fashion will be successful in France?
Geoffrey: I definitely hope so. I think there is an overall trend to adopt a greener lifestyle. In Paris, there are countless supermarkets, such as ‘Bio c’bon’. And just earlier this month, Paris hosted the WE LOVE GREEN festival with 47 000 visitors attending workshops, music, food, art by think tanks that advocate a more eco-conscious lifestyle. Green is the new black!
What are your suggestions for young entrepreneurs who are trying to make it in the sustainable fashion scene?
Geoffrey: My suggestion would be to persevere. There are going to be moments where you will question yourself, but you need to keep going. Then, you should definitely run your idea by your friends and family. You may think that you discovered an amazing concept, but no one else actually agrees with you. Question your target audience and challenge your idea. Last but not least, it’s all about timing. You need to find the right moment to launch your start-up. Success is often tied to being in the right place at the right time.
Besides your eco fashion brand, what other ways do you try and lead a green lifestyle?
Geoffrey: Even though it’s difficult in France, I try my best to separate waste at home. I’m also not a big fan of buying plastic water bottles. What a waste of plastic! When I commute, I often opt for carpooling. That’s also a fun way to make new friends. In my free time, I also hold talks in the outskirts of Paris, encouraging young people to become green entrepreneurs.
So UrbanMeisters, have you fallen in love already? Long-lasting and chic accessories made out of cork for him and her! The wonderful Mr & Mrs Cork products are available on the company’s website: www.mrandmrscork.com. You can also connect with Mr & Mrs Cork on social media to find out about up and coming events/ exhibitions that the brand takes part in! Just last week, Geoffrey represented Mr & Mrs Cork at the VivaTechnology Exposition in Paris as a part of the LVMH lab. Keep an eye out for this one, guys!
Thank you Mr & Mrs Cork for the images.
By Tanja Lok-Yi Fleischer