Fish Leather Contribution To Sustainable Fashion

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image source: emergingdesignersgotedge_runaway

The global apparel industry is valued at 3 trillion dollars and accounts for 2 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes, and Chanel are worth billions of dollars. Africa has not been left behind. Some popular brands such as Kreyann, loincloth, and ashes as well as Saffron are making a name for themselves. however, in between trendy and buzzworthy clothes, an Anthropocene has emerged.


Fish leather products. image source: pixabay.com

Most people know about fish and its multi-nutritional values but little is known about its applausive use in fashion. fish leather offers a solution to demeaning crisis surrounding the fashion industry. Popular global brands such as Prada and Dior have incorporated the use of fish leather in their work. Fish leather is   a sustainable alternative to classic leather.

Fish leather currently accounts for less than 1 percent of the total global leather sale.  This is despite the fact that a lot of fish is harvested daily for human consumption. According to the world bank report in the past three decades, capture fisheries production has increased from 69 million to 93 million tonnes. These are tonnes of fish skin that could, however, be put into productive use.  One tonne of fish fillet generates up to 40kgs of discarded skin.

The United Nation’s food and agriculture organization (FAO) is promoting an increase in production, so as to boost the income of fishing communities around the world. As fishmongers at the Kenyan coast fillet the fish, a lot of scale makes its way to the Indian ocean as waste. What they don’t know is that this skin is worth a lot of money in the foreign market and can substantially increase their income.

Why invest in fish leather?

Fish leather is a byproduct of the food industry meaning fish are not harvested for their skin rather flesh. Therefore, no extra energy in terms of production is required so as to provide this material.  The fishmongers would also earn an extra income from the fish skins they throw away, employment opportunities would also arise like in the case of Victorian foods a company in Kenya.

I ventured into processing the typical Kenyan way, initially processing fish fillet in his backyard. “When I changed roles in the industry, I realized the volume of waste on my hands!”, said James the C.E.O of Victorian foods Kenya.


fish leather shoes. image source: Victorian-foods.com

Fish leather is also environmental friendly as none of the products used involve endangered species. The non-endangered fish species including carp, bass, Pacific salmon, shark, sturgeon, salmon, catfish, and Nile perch are used to give some of the finest qualities of fish leather. In addition to this is, leather are available in a wide variety of drum dyed colours.

Due to the distinctive scale pattern of the fish, there is a uniqueness in the majority of the fashion products made from the same.  International brands prefer it because of its rarity and a multi-colored complexion that is suitable for making bags and shoes. Moreover, fish leather is Hard and strong wearing making it long lasting compared to other materials that may require blending.

Environmental pollution ultimately affects sustainability. In the tanning process of regular leather an estimated….. is released annually. Fish leather sees reduced atmospheric pollution from the tanning process as the lime, acid, and lye used to remove hairs from animal skins are not necessary for the removal of fish scale.

Water pollution would significantly reduce as well. This is because most fish canneries throw away fish skins into water bodies which end up polluting the water and possibly posing a threat to aqua life. The tanning process is also far lighter as compared to the regular leathers which require strong chemical products so as to strip off hairs from the hide or skin for example in making cow leather.

When buying clothes, we prefer one with the label 100% cotton or 75% cotton. But how much does the cotton really cost? Before a cloth makes its way to the beauty shops to display a lot of harm is done to the environment. Production of one kilogram of cotton an equivalent raw material for a single shirt and a pair of jeans demands 20,000 liters of water. Water is a scarce natural resource. Moreover, water used for dying a cloth ends up in the oceans damaging the coral reefs and ending marine life. Cotton farming is responsible for 24percent insecticide and 11percent pesticide. These negatively affect the environment as some end up in the atmosphere and some, absorbed to the soils hence harming the microorganisms.

Shocking, right? if fish leather is incorporated into the apparel industry and given the attention it deserves more people would embrace it, not only because of the uniqueness and beauty but also because of the environmentally friendly package it comes with.

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