From cork to cou­ture

A de­signer ob­tains beau­ti­ful non-wo­ven fab­rics from an un­likely source.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TRENDS - By KATE SIN­GLE­TON

THERE was plenty of cork-pop­ping at the wed­ding of Anna Grindi’s daugh­ter in Tem­pio Pau­sa­nia, in north­ern Sar­dinia, Italy, 10 years ago. In fact, the cork stole the show from the wine. Not only be­cause Cork oaks abound in the sur­round­ing Gal­lura re­gion, their brown­ish-orange midriffs a sign of the reg­u­lar har­vest­ing still es­sen­tial to the lo­cal econ­omy. But also be­cause Ros­sana, the bride, wore a wed­ding gown made of cork.

Anna Grindi had put her all into that dress. First, in her role as a skilled cou­turière with many cus­tomers among the in­ter­na­tional elite who va­ca­tion on the Costa Smer­alda. But, more im­por­tantly, be­cause she had long be­lieved it should be pos­si­ble to ob­tain beau­ti­ful non-wo­ven fab­rics from cork. And this was a chance to go pub­lic with what she’d dis­cov­ered af­ter more than a decade of test­ing and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

“Cork is an amaz­ing nat­u­ral ma­te­rial, im­per­me­able to liq­uids and gas, and with great ther­mal qual­i­ties,” Grindi said. “But it has one draw­back: small quan­ti­ties of red­dish sand which make the sur­face rough and dis­con­tin­u­ous.” Her quest, she said, had been to find “a sim­ple, non-in­va­sive way of elim­i­nat­ing those im­pu­ri­ties.”

She started ex­per­i­ment­ing with cork in the late 90s and her ap­proach was hands-on and em­pir­i­cal; her lab­o­ra­tory, the kitchen. At night, when her hus­band and daugh­ter had gone to bed, she tested var­i­ous ingredients of nat­u­ral ori­gins, adding them to the cork in a pres­sure cooker. (She would not re­veal the ex­act com­po­nents she used.)

“My par­a­digm was my own ex­pe­ri­ence try­ing to smooth out an un­ruly head of curly hair,” she said. “That set me think­ing about what might work with cork. In the end I got it right. It was 2am, and I woke up my hus­band to tell him.”

Grindi made her dis­cov­ery in 2000, at a time when Ital­ians had to reg­is­ter with the Ital­ian patent of­fice be­fore ap­ply­ing for an in­ter- national patent. Af­ter reg­is­ter­ing a false recipe lo­cally (Grindi said she didn’t trust the re­gional sys­tem to pro­tect her for­mula) she reg­is­tered the true ver­sion with the Euro­pean patent of­fice in Mu­nich.

With the patent in place, she de­cided it was time to trans­form her dress­mak­ers ate­lier in cen­tral Tem­pio Pau­sa­nia into the flag­ship store for her new ven­ture: Su­beris, named for the Latin term for Cork oaks, Quer­cus su­ber.

The store opened in 2007, and now dis­plays not only gar­ments made with cork, but also bags, shoes, up­hol­stery fab­rics, del­i­cate

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