Seabass leather - Copyrights: Marielle Philip / Femer

Leather gets a makeover

Posted on 26 March 2015.

Leather gets a makeover! Artisans and stylists from all over the world have rediscovered the virtues of fish skin.

Fish skin is an often discarded by-product of the fishing industry.

In Puerto Varas in Chile, Stiven Kerestegian had the brilliant idea of using fish skin to make high-end leather. Chile is the second largest global producer of farmed salmon, an industry that generates a huge amount of waste - in particular fish skins that pile up by the thousands in factory dumpsters every day. For the Chilean designer, this waste product is an abundant and valuable raw material that he transforms into something that has even more value per kg than salmon fillet. He creates beautiful woolen house shoes with salmon leather soles (under the brand name Chilote), which are knitted and assembled by thirty women in their own homes. Ethical "made in Patagonia" house shoes sell for 40 euros in trendy stores in major Western capitals.

Stiven Kerestegian believes fish skin has a number of special qualities. Among other things, it is economical, makes elegant but also extremely robust exotic leather, and its soft texture is very easy to work. But above all, it is environmentally friendly. Fish skin is an often discarded by-product of the fishing industry. And usually those making use of it are keen to develop eco-friendly leather manufacturing processes with 100% natural and plant-based tanning.

Although Stiven Kerestegian is an elite example in this new industry, there are many others! In Thailand, shagreen (ray or shark skin leather) is highly sought after and women have been tanning tilapia skin for years. In Iceland, the Atlantic Leather tannery has been transforming salmon, cod and perch skins since 1994. And even in France, an increasing number of stylists are experimenting with fish leather. Femer, a small Bordeaux-based family business, has made use of Finnish expertise and takes an eco-friendly, circular economy approach to fish leather production."

A sign of the times! Ready-to-wear and haute couture stylists have seized on this avant-garde leather. The French eco-friendly brand Veja is now offering tilapia leather sneakers in its 2015 Spring-Summer collection.