Crush and Carry: Bags Made from Recycled Cork


As Benjamin Franklin said, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” While Franklin might not have foreseen the attachment future Americans would have to their accessories, the Peasants and Travelers’ cork Doctor’s Bag confirms wine is a gift that keeps on giving.

Peasants and Travelers, a two-year-old accessories label, released the cork version of their venerable Doctor’s Bag design for spring 2010. Owner and designer, Jee Kim, had discovered a swatch of the unexpected material during a trip to Asia. While it intrigued her, she wasn’t sure how she could use it. The sojourn was a break from her steady climb up the ranks of fashion with stops at Gucci, Neiman Marcus, and Banana Republic. But, once she was settled back in San Francisco and working on her new line of bags, she remembered it and decided it would be perfect for crafting a bag.

Made from remnants of wine bottle corks from Portugal that have been smashed down and laminated to retain surface flexibility, Kim says the resulting material, “is waterproof and apparently, floatable.” Although, she doesn’t advise you attempt setting your bag to sail to test it.

Cork has enjoyed a resurgence of late in home interiors and has long been accessible in the shoe industry as wedges, heels, and espadrilles, but what is so unexpected is the luxe and highly refined character it lends the bags.

A good thing gets around fast. It caught the eye of curators at New York’s MoMA who then featured a whole series of cork made accessories by Pelcor, a global cork fashion brand in Portugal, for their “Destination Portugal” exhibit which opened in May.

Our editor-in-chief, Sara Ost, was similarly entranced when she saw the Doctor’s Bag at SF’s Thread show a few weeks ago. Kim offers, “It has a fashion forward look, which you wouldn’t expect. People are so intrigued when they see it in person.” “Its appeal is unisex” says Kim, with men and women coveting its “classic style with a modern interpretation.”

The design is as efficient as it is eye-catching. It’s roomy and travels well, fitting into an overhead storage locker or under the plane seat. It’s part of Peasants and Travelers’ urbane villager line, which includes the paper tote bag, a larger weekender, and an oversized envelope that fits an iPad perfectly.

Nearly every inch of Peasants and Travelers’ bags are composed of reclaimed materials ranging from recycled cork to the repurposed cotton-dress shirt gingham lining “that, unlike nylon linings that rip and tear, gets softer with use”, enthuses Kim. The bags are BPA, phthalate and lead free but their most impressive green credential according to Kim is its longevity – “when you adore something, you won’t want to throw it away.”

Available at 10 locations, including Urban Outfitters.

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.