Satya has ceased publication. This website is maintained for informational purposes only.

To learn more about the upcoming Special Edition of Satya and Call for Submissions, click here.

back issues


February 2003
TreeTap: “Vegetal” Leather


That’s right; it’s a cotton-based fabric that’s rubberized with natural latex extracted from wild rubber trees in the Amazon Rainforest. TreeTap products are truly stunning, and feature mainly assorted bags and purses, though also available is a limited selection of accessories such as a sleek but handy wallet ($33), coin, pencil, and cosmetic cases ($9-$32), and a stylin’ “coconut hat” ($17.50). With bags that range from simple-yet-cool briefcases ($41-$44) and a duffel-style travel bag ($84) to the ultra-chic purse collection ($28-$75) and some urban-style backpacks, they’ve got something for everyone. Among the Satya favorites: the Para Purse ($38)—in navy, light or dark brown with contrasting straps—is that perfect size, just big enough to carry all you need for an evening, but isn’t cumbersome; the practical Gabiroba Purse—black with red straps—is an ideal, fashionable way to lug around a large or heavy load; and the smaller, more petite Pequi Purse and Hummingbird Handbag ($45.10) are sure to entice compliments anywhere you go.

TreeTap is a smooth and durable material and feels somewhat like leather—not enough to be mistaken for the real thing, but it sure puts the big Italian designers in their place: unlike the top-name designers, these prices are quite reasonable, perhaps unexpectedly so, considering the high level of both quality and style, and that everyone involved in production is guaranteed a decent wage by the company’s fair trade policy.

Amazon Life is the Brazilian company that turns TreeTap into fashionable products and sells them internationally. Since its inception in 1991, the Amazon Life project has been working to improve the rubber tapper’s traditional handicraft and render it competitive in the international market, creating real and sustainable economic opportunities for the people of the Amazon. With some 200 families—an approximate 1,000 persons—involved so far, the product’s economic success has allowed for people to purchase the durable goods they need, make significant improvements to their homes as well as to public infrastructure (i.e. transportation), and other advancements that enable people to live a better life in the jungle in a manner that respects both the environment and their traditional cultures. The project has also improved access to citizenship and credit—a notorious obstacle faced by the poor in Brazil, where many people have no identification documents and receive no money for their work.

At last year’s World Conference on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the United Nations Development Program—when picking finalists for the Equator Initiative Awards, which recognize “accomplishments in poverty reduction through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the equatorial belt”—had this to say about the Amazon Life Project: “In addition to securing major fashion houses as clients, the project also ensures that production processes meet the international certification standards of the Forest Stewardship Council. By involving rubber tappers in sustainable production of TreeTap, the project is reversing a cycle of unsustainable forest use and poverty and helping to directly protect over 900,000 hectares of wild forest from unsustainable exploitation.”

Here in the U.S., the one major drawback to these wonderful bags is the difficulty in finding them. MooShoes (207 E. 26 St., NYC; 212-481-5792) has a limited selection of TreeTap bags, and is currently the only U.S. location for retail sales. You can purchase them all at Amazon Life’s website, which has plenty of resources to offer besides the store, and though it tends to be slightly confusing and temperamental, is certainly worth a visit. Learn more about the various aspects of the project—its history, the peoples involved, the step-by-step production process of the TreeTap wonder-material and more—or view the complete collection and place an order:, or contact for more information. —R.C.


All contents are copyrighted. Click here to learn about reprinting text or images that appear on this site.