With its wallets, mobile phone cases and other accessories made from sustainably harvested Portuguese cork, Swedish design company 15:21 has taken more than just inspiration from nature. The results are not only tough, waterproof, and gorgeously tactile, but also help to protect the natural world.

Taking its name from the train that founder Fredrik Stenvinkel was supposed to take to work, it is no exaggeration to say that the 15:21 brand was literally born out of a desire for change. “I was working in a monotonous job, and when I missed that train, instead of feeling frustrated, I felt relieved,” Stenvinkel says. “That’s when I realised that something was wrong and that I had to work on something I had a passion for.”

A philosophy of breaking out from unhealthy behaviours and returning to something more essential is at the heart of the Stockholm-based company. “For me personally, it was about a change in my life and job, but in a wider sense, it’s about changing patterns of how we use materials,” Stenvinkel explains. “I think people often just presume that their wallet or phone case has to be made of plastic or silicon and aren’t really aware that there are alternatives.”

In fact, cork has impressive credentials, not least environmentally. It is sustainably harvested from the bark of the tree, which then grows back, making it a truly renewable material. Furthermore, commercial use of cork supports the survival of the forests, which not only absorb large amounts of CO2 but are also teeming with life and second only to the Amazon rain forests in terms of biodiversity. Even the production process is green — 90 per cent of the energy required to process the cork comes from the burning of cork dust, a natural by-product of the harvesting process, and the trees need no irrigation or pesticides.

15:21’s accessories are about more than just a guilt-free conscience, however. With its sleek, suede-like feel and minimalist elegance, cork offers a timeless aesthetic appeal. Yet, it is also extremely durable, waterproof and easy to clean, making it the perfect material to withstand the rigours of everyday use.

Stenvinkel explains: “Our concept is about combining Scandinavian simplicity with nature’s own aesthetics, great, practical functionality, and a production method that actually protects nature, instead of exploiting it.”


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