MADE OF CORK: SUSTAINABLE BRAND PELCOR OPENS FLAGSHIP STORE IN LISBON
On a recent Thursday evening in Lisbon’s Principe Real area, a crowd consisting of the city’s fashion set and Angola’s who’s who, gathered. The cause for celebration was the store opening of Pelcor: a made in Portugal brand dedicated to cork, infusing sustainability with fashion. That a brand specialized in cork finds its roots in Portugal, is no coincidence. The Southern European nation is currently world’s largest producer of cork, responsible for 50% of global cork production annually. At present, the Pelcor brand offers a line of accessories which range from handbags to wallets. Projects involving additional goods, plus a product range entirely dedicated to men, are currently in the works.
The eco-friendly business is a brainchild of Portuguese entrepreneur Sandra Correia. She grew up as the granddaughter of a factory owner whose business produces champagne bottle corks. In 2003 however, Correia started thinking outside the champagne box, using cork to create an umbrella instead. Subsequently, the atypical umbrella and the positive feedback it acquired, inspired Correia to launch Pelcor (a combination of the Portuguese words for “skin” and “cork”).
Last year an Angolan investor that goes by the name of Rui Tati stepped in. Tati recently bought the company for an undisclosed sum, while Pelcor’s founder still acts as a brand ambassador. The new Pelcor owner is a pilot and entrepreneur (with a past in the oil & gas sector, as well as M&A) who spends his time between Cape Town, Luanda and Lisbon.
“The cork oak tree is the only tree in the world which bark regenerates itself every nine years. The smooth, pliable fabric is durable, waterproof, flame-retardant and stain-resistant”
“The cork oak tree is the only tree in the world which bark regenerates itself every nine years. The smooth, pliable fabric is durable, waterproof, flame-retardant and stain-resistant,” Rui Tati explains when asked what triggered him to get on board. In his native country Angola, attitudes towards environmental issues are still a work in progress. Nonetheless, “it’s committed to the global concerns around sustainability. Keep in mind that Angola is a young country, with a long war history,” Tati shares.
Pelcor first experimented with a mono-brand store in the city of São Brás de Alportel (where the majority of Portugal’s cork production is based), maintaining a low profile. Post-takeover, the brand’s new owner is planning on taking things up a notch in terms of international retail presence and product range.
While Pelcor has already gained presence across Portugal’s main airports – as well as China, via a multi-brand concept – other markets are on Tati’s radar also. “Our main markets are the US, China, Portugal and Japan. We are expanding the business into some new markets across Europe, Africa and Asia, which will become public in the next couple of months.” In the meantime, there’s the company’s Lisbon-based flagship store and in-house e-commerce site, to keep supporters of sustainable fashion busy.
By Declan Eytan, CONTRIBUTOR, SEP 21, 2016