THE MAKING OF WOODS
First of all, thanks so much for visiting Woods Essentials, and for the opportunity to earn a spot in your wardrobe! My name's Holly, and I'm so excited to share my first product with you - it's been a few years in the making.
The idea to create cork handbags first started when I was in design class at uni. We were tasked with creating our own product lines, and I wanted to create a product that I could actually use, and something that I could get really excited about.
If you're passionate about the environment and animal welfare like I am, you'll know how hard it is to find minimal, stylish handbags that are sustainable and cruelty-free.
So I decided to have a go at creating some!
WHY CORK LEATHER
After doing lots of research online, I decided on using cork leather. If you haven't heard much about cork leather before, it's essentially a fabric made from the pressed and dyed bark of the cork oak tree, which is fused to a thin base - ours is backed with polyester and cotton. Cork has a far better Higg Sustainability Index score than faux leather, and is at the opposite end of the scale to the worst sustainability offender, cow's leather.
The cork oak trees, which grow the Mediterranean, have their bark stripped once every nine years. This process does not hurt the tree. In fact, the cork industry is essential for the survival of cork forests and their wildlife.
When I received the cork from Portugal I couldn't stop running my fingers over it's smooth texture and admiring its subtle texture in the light. It was also super flexible, durable and water resistant - I was sold!
THE FIRST WOODS BAG
I got to work making my first products at university, some simple little clutches and watch straps, which I cut on a laser cutter and hand stitched together. The results were amateur, but my friends loved them and insisted I make more.
Being a broke uni student at the time, with no real sewing skills, I wasn't about to start a handbag business, but the idea always stuck in my mind.
After a year out of uni, working full time, and with my friends still using and loving the clutches, I decided to give starting the business a go. I noticed a gap in the market for a sleek black tote bag, which could be used by like minded women for work, study and travel, so I started to look for a manufacturer!
Finding the right manufacturer was a tough process, and took over a year. I contacted over 50 factories around the world, and had samples made from the five that met my criteria and were willing to work with me on such a small starting order.
After comparing all my options and samples, I finally settled on an expert handbag manufacturer in Guangzhou, China. No other manufacturer I approached could match the skill of their handiwork, and provide the quality product that I was after.
They have over 15 years of experience in handbag design and development, with a team of incredibly skilled designers and craftsmen. Their factory’s quality control and cleanliness have been verified onsite by world-leading inspection company SGS Group.
My Chinese manufacturing project partner, Crystal, has been invaluable in transforming my designs into a quality product. I'm so grateful to her and her team for their insight, willingness to embrace a different product, and for coming on this journey with me.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE BAG
Woods started as a university design project, where I handmade a few clutches and watch straps out of cork leather.
A year later, I began the process of product sampling, comparing different manufacturers and refining my tote bag design.