When is leather not from a cow? And when is the imitation stuff not from a test tube? When it's called vegetal leather, couro vegetal or Treetap and it comes from rubber trees in the Amazon. Indigenous tree trappers ‘milk‘ wild plants in the jungle. The sap from these Hevea brasiliensis is a natural latex and after being sustainably harvested (trees are rotated every two years) it is filtered and layered onto a cotton backing. This is smoke cured, half a dozen times or so, and sun dried to vulcanise or ‘set’ the latex. The resulting Treetap can be used to make shoulder bags, day packs, briefcases, purses and even footwear. Developed from a traditional handicraft, the Treetap program ensures native peoples can afford to keep living in their rainforest, without needing to sell chunks to the voracious chain-sawers. Julie Lewis was one of the early advocates of the material for footwear. Nowadays, alongside her hemp Pachira boots, she is offering Treetap bags, like the one pictured above, for $65 USD. ::TreeTap Amazon Project [by WM]


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