Handbag designer Natalie DiBello uses an unlikely sustainable material for her collection: cork.
This isn’t your wine bottle stopper variety. It’s actually thinly shaved cork adhered to cotton fabric. Natalie buys bolts in bulk from vendors in Portugal, the world’s top supplier. Once it arrives, she gets to work sewing each item in her Massachusetts home studio. It’s the ultimate handmade product; Natalie is on target to personally cut, sew, tag and pack 10,000 items by the end of the year.
Some are calling cork the new leather. That suits Natalie just fine.
“People love it; it’s eye-catching because it’s unusual,” Natalie says. “It’s been important for me from the beginning to stay small yet sustainable and focus on something that is eco friendly.”
Natalie started designing purses when she left her corporate job eight years ago. After much trial and error, and a recommendation from her architect sister who was familiar with the durability and versatility of cork, Natalie made the switch from “funky cotton prints.” Her first year—2009—she sold 100 handbags. Today her bags are available at more than 150 retail and online stores nationwide.
Through her company Natalie Therése, Natalie has created more than a dozen handbag styles, from totes to cross body bags. Accessories include wallets and pencil cases. Last year, Natalie added the Be Lively digitally printed line featuring a global-inspired mosaic tile design.
Prices are competitive with wallets starting at $14 and handbags at $142, making it fashionable and affordable. The lightweight material is also soft, easy to clean, stain-resistant and waterproof.
This summer Natalie Therése will unveil a backpack with the line’s signature faux leather accent in lime green, red, navy or black at the base.
“My work is very gratifying, I love what I do,” Natalie says. “I’m not going to pretend it’s not really hard at times, trying to break through the next level of creating something new. But everything I’m doing is coming from me and that feels really cool.”
*GIVEAWAY* Comment below with your favorite color wristlet (visit NatalieTherese.com) and be entered to win one small wristlet and also receive a LooHoo 5-Pack. A winner will be announced July 31, 2017.
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