Models showed the versatility of cork fabric when mixed with soft textures and bright colours in Karen Monk-Klijnstras range.

In what is believed to be a world first, cork fabric made its debut at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg at the weekend, in Durban fashion icon Karen Monk-Klijnstra’s range.

Monk-Klijnstra’s Zulu Freda range was a riot of colour that combined Zulu culture, mixed with the Indian, Afrikaans and English influences in our province – with cork cleverly spread throughout the range.

Embellishments and accessories were proudly Durban too, with graffiti artwork handpainted by artist Steve Mandy, headpieces made by Fay Abdullah of Hoi Poloi and jewellery by Yolanda Louw. The show was sponsored by KwaZulu-Natal Fashion Council and Trade and Investment KZN's Market Access programme.

Cork has been used for several years in decor applications, including floor and wall tiles, upholstery, shoes and sound-proofing.

And when cork fabric took to the runway, in an aesthetic rather than a functional application, it was a sensation.

“At first, it was difficult to work with because it was quite thick and not pliable, but once I had adjusted my machines it went well and I shall certainly be using it in my ranges in the future,” said Monk-Klijnstra.

Charl Pretorius, who runs the KwaZulu-Natal operation of Just Cork, the importer of cork products from Portugal, was also delighted, as were Paula Gomes who came from Portugal and Jorge Rodrigues who runs the head office.

Pretorius said cork was environmentally friendly, renewable and sustainable and no trees were cut down to create the product.

“Karen’s show was a brilliant showcase of cork fabrics,” he said.

* See www.justcork.co.za