If you have met me at any of my pop-ups or follow @ubuswimwear on social media, you will know how much I love Dandelion Cork and their products. I am so happy to have Dandelion Cork as an UBU Brand Partner. I love what Ashley and her dad do, I love what they stand for and I love their products. Speaking to customers and, this year especially, from all the conversations I am having with followers on social media, it is very clear that more and more of you want the story behind the brand. You want to know where your products come from, who made them, what they are made from and why. So, welcome to the first of my Meet The Makers blog series! Read on to learn more about Dandelion Cork and get to know Ashley, the amazing woman behind the brand.
Dandelion Cork - Cork products handmade in Singapore
Founded in 2019, Dandelion Cork was born out of a passion for handcrafting accessories using cork fabric - a sustainable, vegan alternative to leather. The brand carries a collection of artisanal cork products, combining the lightness of cork with bold colours and intricate prints to achieve an elegance that is at once modern and timeless. All products are made in a smoke and pet-free home-based studio.
Cork as a fabric
Cork comes from the bark of cork oak trees predominantly grown in the Mediterranean region of Europe. Trees are never cut down; only the bark is carefully stripped away by skilled agricultural workers. Trees go on to live for centuries and can be harvested over 16 times throughout their lifetimes. Cork is super soft, renewable, water- and dust-resistant, anti-fungal, hypoallergenic and incredibly lightweight!
MEET ASHLEY, THE FOUNDER OF DANDELION CORK
Tell me a little about yourself
Hi there, I am Ashley, the founder of Dandelion Cork. I am a sewing/ bag-making enthusiast. My dad and I are the main makers at Dandelion Cork. We handcraft our bags mainly from cork fabric, and we also upcycle scrap materials to create smaller accessories.
My dad has been the main source of inspiration in my crafting journey. Since young, we will do many DIY projects together and many of our items at home like curtains, pillowcases, table runners and gifts are handmade. He bought me my first sewing machine more than a decade ago, and it is still the same machine we are using to create all the beautiful pieces in our small online store!
Sewing to me is more than a passion. It has been a source of relief to my anxiety. Seeing different materials coming together to form a finished product, reminds me that things are in my control and makes me feel confident. More importantly, sewing has allowed me to keep a close bond with my dad over the years. I treasure the fun and creative moments we spent together.
What inspired you to start Dandelion Cork?
Back last year, I was searching for a bag to use for my daily errands. I wanted a bag that looked uniquely mine, that is made to last, yet created with sustainable materials.
That was also when I came across cork fabric (also known as cork leather) and realized there are so many amazing characteristics about this vegan alternative to leather. I was surprised that such a fabric is so underrated in Asia, hence I decided to revisit my hobby for sewing again to create unique bags from this material.
What is the mission/goal of Dandelion Cork?
Delicate, with the heart of a lion - this depicts our mission for the brand. We advocate buying items handmade with love, made to last. Each of our items aim to achieve style with sustainability through quality handmade-with-love cork accessories, created in minute quantities. Our items take from a few hours to a few days to create, and we aim to introduce new styles periodically. This flexibility is possible because we are still a small brand who designs and make our own products!
How / where do you source your materials?
Our cork fabric pieces are sourced from Europe, mainly from Portugal. Other cotton fabric pieces and bag parts are purchased in Singapore, mostly from the traditional fabric shops at People’s Park owned by the cute and amicable senior uncles and aunties!
What has been your biggest challenge so far with Dandelion Cork?
We are hoping to push out more designs and create more accessories, but unfortunately with only my dad and I as the only makers (and me in charge of all other admin and marketing matters) in Dandelion Cork at the moment, there is just insufficient time and manpower! We are working on this - hoping to involve more like-minded individuals in our journey. While this is a challenge at the moment, it also forces us to be more selective in our designs, and only selling our best makes and designs.
What has been your biggest success/achievement with Dandelion Cork so far?
It warms our hearts when we receive good feedback about our products! Be it through a product review, or verbally during our pop-ups, or a nice message on our social media. While we have just set up our online shop for less than a year with really limited product quantities, we have already gotten orders from beyond the shores of Singapore – e.g. USA, Europe, other parts of Asia. It’s exciting to know that more people around the world are getting to know about us!
Another thing we are really proud of ourselves about is how we participated in a meaningful cause earlier this year where we sewed 300 masks for migrants in a week! It really put our sewing speed to test!
What is next for you & Dandelion Cork?
We are preparing new bag designs for 2021! We have also been trying to study more about Cork Fabric and our material sources, to ensure that we pick only the most sustainable and beautiful ones.
Anything else that you would like people to know about Dandelion Cork?
The brand name – Dandelion Cork –was inspired by an adorable dandelion spotted during my trip in Rosendal, Norway. The cute little plant stood out confidently amidst a field of green. I was reminded of the quote – “When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds or a hundred wishes.” I identified well with the quote, and here I am, taking the small leap of faith to start my small online shop!