I would like you to meet my friend, Felice.
Felice, 27, is co-founder of iiwiiCork.Amsterdam. She lives together with Iyiapo (also co-founder) in Amsterdam.
Hi Felice! Good to see you here!
When did you decide to become a vegan? What was the main reason?
“I stopped eating meat and fish when I was about 19 years old. As long as I remember I have always loved animals and felt strongly connected to them, yet funny enough never really gave much thought to the meat on my plate actually being the flesh of a once living animal. Now the thought of it really disgusts me. I remember the last fish I ate, it was at restaurant De Struisvogel in Amsterdam, it’s head was still on and I swear I could hear it say help me, please. Too late of course, I ate it and got sick the same night. Apparently my body did not agree with fish any longer. The dairy, cheese and eggs I left behind some years after that, it didn’t make sense anymore. The industry is just too ridiculous and harmful. I don’t call myself a vegan though, I eat vegan. But sometimes I feel like eating cheese, and then I eat cheese. I don’t feel guilty for that, I know striving for perfection will suck all the energy out of you so I do my best to leave that alone.”
What is the most fulfilling part of starting your label, iiwiicork?
“The creative process of building the label. It’s about letting go and that’s both challenging and fulfilling. What’s also fulfilling is to see the amazed looks of some of the people in our shop when they learn about cork fabric. That always brings joy.”
Your items are made out of cork. Why have you chosen this material?
“My partner and I weren’t really looking for anything, we came across cork fabric and simply fell in love with it. I will first explain what cork fabric is because it’s not so well known. It’s a leather replacing fabric, made from the bark of the cork oak tree. It’s strong, waterproof, lightweight, stain resistant, maintenance free, hypo allergenic, supple, super soft and very beautiful. The natural textures and patterns of the tree are alive in every piece of it.
Cork is one of these materials that everybody is familiar with, but few really know about it. It’s a gift of nature and we would be stupid not to use it to its full potential (which goes way beyond the usual wine stoppers, notice boards and floors). The cork oak tree is the only tree that sheds its bark, and can live without it. It let’s go of its bark every 10 years or so. So we can take it of, use it, and come back when it’s regrown, and the tree will be there for over 200 years… Cork oaks grow in what are called cork oak forests spread throughout the Mediterranean. People living in and around these forests have been living in harmony with them for centuries. Their livelihoods come from looking after the trees and using the cork. They even still maintain the same harvesting methods.
So basically, we have a natural material for which no animals had to suffer and that can be used sustainably. On top of that it is extremely practical and very beautiful. When we first learned about it, we couldn’t understand why we had never heard of it before. So that became the mission we set ourselves upon. Promoting cork fabric through fashion items such as bags, shoes, headwear, but also tech accessories, wallets, cushions, and even yoga mats and umbrella’s. It can all be made from cork fabric.”
Did you do the designing yourself?
“Yes and no. Some of our items are designed by us, others not. We have gotten quit excited about product design though and have ideas, so expect more of our designs in the future.”
What is your favorite item in the collection?
“My favourite item is the beret. I love wearing it, it’s very versatile. I can stick all my hair up in there, or wear it with the peak at the back or even the side. Whatever I feel like. It’s super comfy because it is lightweight and has shaped itself to my head. I put it on and it feels as if it belongs there.”
Can you share a bit about your artistic journey?
“As a child I was always creating, building houses from sticks, drawing, painting, working with wood. Making things with whatever I could find. It has always been an outlet for me. When the pencil touches the paper, my hand will follow it, and my mind becomes still. Something is creating, through me. And if I resist that flow and try to make something I had thought of it usually turns out really unsatisfying. So the lesson would be to have faith and just let things be, give it space so it can grow into something.”
How would you describe your signature style?
“Thats a difficult question. I wear what I feel like at that moment, and that can go into any direction. I love colour and unusual colour combinations. As for our collection, our style is simple, elegant and practical, letting the cork steal the show.”
What and who inspires you?
“Anything and anyone can inspire me. But I can’t tell you this or that inspired me to do that or this. I think things just come to me as long as I am open to receive. For that I need to feel connected, which I find difficult at times. The movement of nature has a big impact on me, it goes straight to my soul. So I could say that nature plays a big role in inspiring me, but maybe it’s more guidance than inspiration. I’m not sure.”
What does happiness means to you?
“Happiness to me means to be free. I think it starts with faith and acknowledgement, without judgement. With this I mean is that the only thing you can be sure of is what you observe, and all the thoughts you have about what you observe are just thoughts, coming from you. They may have a purpose, they may not. But they don’t necessarily say anything about what is really going on. To accept this and just enjoy what’s there.”
What is your life motto?
“It is what it is.”
“Don’t have one in particular, but I like movies in the genre I call tribal sci-fi. Future civilisations, with a mix of action, nature, technology.”
What do you like most about living in Amsterdam?
“That you can just be yourself.”
Would you ever live anywhere else?
“Yes, one day I will move out of the city, somewhere with space, green and quiet.”
What is your favorite vegan restaurant?
“To be honest I prefer our home cooking best. My partner and I both really enjoy cooking and are quit good at it as well. But to answer your question, I will have to say Vegabond. A cute vegan supermarket/lunchroom on the Leliegracht here in Amsterdam.”
What is your favorite recipe?
“I don’t have recipes. I don’t like cooking when I have to think about it too much, I just put in the pot whatever I feel like. Most of the time it turns out nice, sometimes not at all.”
Anything else you would like to share with us?
“Yes, if you’re curious about cork fabric, how it’s made, what it feels like… Visit us in our shop in Binnen Oranjestraat 11, Amsterdam. We will show you more about it. Thanks for reading.”