Pelcor and Rutz: When Cork Becomes Fashion

Cork, a 100% natural and eco-friendly product, is increasingly used in the fashion industry, from accessories to footwear. Rutz, a name that refers us to our roots and traditions, is the most recent brand of shoes to use cork as its material of choice. Targeting urban, youthful and active women who are looking for something different, Rutz´s proposal relies on the link between cork and Portuguese symbolism. "Love Letters" is the name of its first collection, inspired by the embroidery of lovers´ handkerchiefs. The 2013 fall/winter collection will be unveiled soon, but the secrecy surrounding the traditional elements chosen as inspiration means that not even its name has been divulged.

Raquel Castro, Hugo Baptista and Teresa Vieira da Cruz are the creators of Rutz, which is entirely produced around São João da Madeira. The choice of cork was the result of the need to find a differentiation factor against the countless existing brands of Portuguese shoes. The comfort and lightness provided by this eco-friendly material were determinant for its choice, as well as its strong connection to the Portuguese identity, which Rutz wants to convey. As a product that has been the target of constant studies and innovations in terms of new applications, cork is regarded by the directors of Rutz as a material with a bright future.

With less than one year of existence and only one collection launched so far, Rutz was very well received, both domestically and abroad. In addition to already being on sale in Germany, the brand has attracted interest from all over Europe, Brazil and Macao. Social networks, and Rutz´s page on Facebook in particular, have been determinant for the brand´s promotion.

And who are Rutz´s customers? "Urban women over 25, with a strong connection to their roots," says Raquel Castro, as well as "every woman who wants to fall in love with shoes, because that is our mission: to make them fall in love."

Pelcor also uses cork as its only raw material, but in fashion accessories and office supplies. Created in 2003 by Sandra Correia, an Algarve businesswoman who has always been connected to the cork-oak and cork processing sectors, Pelcor evolved and, this year, it appeared with a fresh image and a trendier and more sophisticated collection that resulted from a partnership with Eduarda Abbondanza, designer, director-general of ModaLisboa and Pelcor´s new creative director.

In its latest collection, cork gained colour. "We evolved from a traditional and artisanal product to a piece of design with high-quality manufacture. It was a natural step in our growth. Today, we have a collection for a mid/high-end market, where each product can be used and adapted to each person´s state of mind," Sandra Correia explains. Meanwhile, the new Pelcor flagship shop was inaugurated in Lisbon, although the commercial space that the brand already has in the Algarve will remain open. Abroad, Pelcor has a significant presence in Northern Europe and in the United States, and is now preparing its entrance to Brazil and the Asian market.

The only certainty is that, at least in the short term, the brand will continue to focus on fashion accessories. "In the future, it is possible that we may include some shoes, but it would always be in partnership with an established brand of shoes," Sandra Correia adds. It is worth noting that amongst the many personalities who have already been presented with Pelcor products are the heads of state who participated in the 2010 NATO Summit, in Lisbon. Sandra Correia, whose products may be purchased at the Museum of Modern Art [MoMA] of New York and at the National Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo [MOMAT], was invited by the Portuguese government to develop customized items for that occasion. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, received a tie, an umbrella and a collar for his dog, Bo. The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and the North-American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, were presented with limited-edition handbags with the Portuguese coat of arms and national flag. Hillary also received a clutch in croc-cork leather, a cork product that resembles crocodile skin and is an innovation developed by Pelcor. The President of the European Commission, Durão Barroso, has had a computer case for several years. After her latest concert in Lisbon, Madonna was also presented with a Pelcor bag.