Fish skin leather used to be commonplace in many cultures. As practical and pervasive as the material was, the practice of making fish skin leather faded in the 20th century. Its loss is intertwined with colonialism and assimilation. Now, it’s making a comeback. Fish skin leather is also emerging as a commodity in the world of fashion; in recent years, the material has caught the eye of designers who want to incorporate it into luxury items.
Commercial interest in fish skin leather is partly a result of consumers’ environmental and ethical concerns about the global leather supply chain. Most conventional leather like snakeskin and alligator skin is produced using harsh chemicals, such as chromium salts, which cause respiratory ailments and persistent skin ulcers in tannery workers.
Making fish skin leather is a gentler process than making conventional leather. It requires fewer harsh chemicals. Fish skin is a byproduct of the food industry that often goes to waste. Every tonne of filleted fish amounts to about 40 kilograms of skins. Fish skin leather is thin but remarkably strong because its fibers crisscross.
The revival of fish skin leather is more than the rediscovery of a craft. In a time of environmental crises, using local resources to their full extent may be an idea worth reviving.
Read more at Hakai Magazine