With their soft, resilient fabric and beautiful designs, Ono accessories were quick to grab our attention. Whether you are looking for a luxurious, vegan alternative to leather or you are simply curious about innovation in fashion, bags made of cork fabric can be a beautiful choice.
While a lot of other brands' cork bags can have too much of a rustic feel for our taste, Ono bags have managed to created a range that has left us swooning. Founder Bernadette explains why she started Ono and what makes this sustainable luxury brand so special.
What inspired you to start Ono?
It all started in 2013 during my time living and working in Bali. I was inspired by the incredible lush nature, the meticulous craftsmanship around me, the natural elegance of the Balinese women and the profound and simple theory of ‘cause no harm’. So I simply decided to create products that combine it all: beauty, elegance, art, natural materials, quality, durability and a fully sustainable approach for people and the planet.
I loved the idea of no longer having to decide between beauty and sustainability, between harming nature or people or animals. Why would people, animals or the future generation have to suffer for us to have beautiful things? There shouldn’t have to be a compromise, I wanted more and I created it. It just makes so much more sense.
Why did you choose cork? What makes it sustainable?
Cork is both naturally beautiful and also very durable. After carrying out some initial research this became our fabric of choice for many reasons – its durability, softness and flexibility and most importantly the fact it’s completely natural, biodegradable and sustainable.
Cork harvesting has a very long tradition in the Mediterranean region, the home of cork trees. It is a perfect example of a sustainable practice of agroforestry. Once a cork tree has reached an age of about 25 years, its bark is removed. This does not cause any harm to the tree, it simply regrows and is ready for the next removal after a further 9 years. The process of regrowth is good for the environment as the cork oak binds about five times the amount of CO2 than other trees.
Our bags are designed and handcrafted to last. Cork is not only very lightweight and durable but also cleverly stain resistant. Our bags have been tested to their limits and they repel all liquids (including red wine and coffee!) and are wipe-able with organic soap and water.
What makes cork luxurious?
Luxury can be defined in many ways. I believe it is true luxury to have something beautiful, designed without compromise and hand-crafted by skilled artisans under fair conditions.
At Ono, we only use the highest grade of cork available and consciously choose to keep the material as natural as possible, so the cork sheets are hand applied to oeko-tex certified tencel using water based (toxic free) glue. This gives the material its strength and durability. The material is finished by hand, ensuring all of the layers are seamless and beautifully soft to touch. For those who have not encountered the beauty of cork, they are always pleasantly surprised at how tactile and supple it is.
There are a number of brands emerging that use cork, what makes Ono special?
Cork is chosen and used by a many brands, however when you look closer at the composition, cork can sometimes only make 10% of the fabric with polyester backing, a layer of plastic and a chemical glue.
I wasn’t prepared to use cork - a natural beautiful resource - in such a way. I spent almost a year developing a new cork-tencel fabric that celebrates the true natural beauty of cork.
I think our approach is special, in the fact that we are not prepared to compromise - so you don’t have to. We refuse to make short-cuts and stay true to our vision. All of our materials are carefully sourced and are natural and sustainable. We use GOTs certified organic cotton, natural bamboo, oeko tex certified tencel and threads, handmade gold brass hardware – to ensure our bags stay true to our cause. We carefully select our partners and suppliers to ensure they adhere to our working conditions. By choosing Ono, you can be certain that from conception to creation to store, we cause no harm - only beautiful products for you to enjoy.
What is your favourite from the Ono collection and why?
Now this is a hard one… I would say that if I had to choose a favourite it would probably be the Cor Love. This elegant shoulder bag always catches peoples’ attention. It’s a perfect companion for every day. Not too big a bag to carry around, comfortable but big enough for my laptop, wallet and essentials.
What does a sustainable lifestyle mean to you?
Being aware of the circle of life we all live in. Understanding how our choices, our behaviour and our consumerism has an impact on nature, people, animals and the planet. Recognising that the way we choose to live now affects us directly (for example toxic substances in clothes, in food) or further down the line (climate change, air pollution, plastic in the ocean, hormones and chemicals in animal products, refugees and terrorism).
In the end we have to understand that we all live on the same planet and that we are all connected. So the more we harm some parts of this natural balance, the more we will be affected by this harm. For me, being conscious and acting out of this consciousness is the definition of a sustainable lifestyle.