April 18, 2013 | Tips & Style

Ever thought of wearing a tree as a dress?

Here at Parkers, we’re big into sustainable dry cleaning. We use special processes to limit our carbon footprint as we care for our customers’ clothing. Because we value sustainability so much, we were completely captivated when some well-known fashion designers started to incorporate bark cloth into their designs.

Bark cloth is exactly what it sounds like – cloth made from stretched tree bark. Made from the Mutaba tree, the fabric is harvested in a completely harmless manner, prompting many people to declare bark cloth one of fashion’s most sustainable fabrics. ­

Interestingly enough, the process involved in making bark cloth is not a new one. It’s actually one of the oldest known crafts. According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Baganda people in southern Uganda have been making bark cloth for over 600 years.

We were happy to learn that UNESCO produced a short video about bark cloth, giving viewers a glimpse into the Baganda culture, where bark cloth is a sacred fabric.

The video takes us from the moment when the bark is taken from the Mutaba tree, through to the heating, stretching, pounding, and drying processes. As you can guess, creating bark cloth is extremely labour intensive.

Talancia Pea from Sustainablog recently published a post about bark cloth and its potential future in modern fashion. “As the fabric continues to grow in popularity, it’s being used for many purposes including upholstery, curtains, and bedding. The durability and texture of bark cloth yields endless opportunities for the fashion industry; it may possibly become a permanent alternative to leather,” writes Pea.

The fact that the fashion industry is embracing bark cloth is also encouraging for craftsmen in Uganda, whose jobs have been disappearing due to industrially produced cotton cloth imports. “We can help preserve this ancient craft by supporting designers [who] incorporate the fabric into their looks. In turn we’ll be giving monetary support to organic farmers and their families who grow Mutaba trees and craftsmen who work to create one-of-a-kind bark cloths,” says Pea.

Fascinating, right?! Don’t worry. We won’t leave you hanging about that video we mentioned above. You can view it here.


 One of the designers blazing the way for bark cloth is José Hendo. Here is one of their designs on the runway.

Jose Hendo Bark Cloth Dress


 Here’s another example of bark cloth gaining some traction, this time through Christian Siriano, of Project Runway fame, who’s collaborated with eco-model Summer Rayne Oakes to create bark cloth belts.

Bark Cloth Belt

(Image from style.com)


Want to learn more about some of our eco-friendly dry cleaning options? Check out our blog post about Green Earth Cleaning, Solvair Cleaning, and Wet Cleaning, or stop by one of our many Toronto locations to talk to us about it in person.


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