Developing Fish Skin as a Sustainable Raw Material for the Fashion Industry

A lot of pollution and waste is involved in tanning and dyeing of leather in the world today. This research project is about the possibilities of naturally dyed fish skin leather as a choice in production of luxury fashion items. Fish skin is especially suitable for such a production as the material is very light yet strong and durable and can be used in many ways. The project is a part of a large international and inter-sectoral research project called FISHSkin: Developing Fish Skin as a Sustainable Raw Material for the Fashion Industry, supported by RISE Horizon 2020, the research and innovation staff exchange program of the EU. The project aims at making fish skin a sustainable possibility in luxury production; improving production processes on all levels of the production, from fish farming, tanning, dyeing, to the finalised product and marketing of it.

The raw material of fish skin is a side product of the food industry and the whole dyeing process places emphasis on sustainability. During our research we looked into using local Icelandic flora but knowledge of natural dyeing with those plants on fish skin has been very limited until now. The aim of the project was to explore the possibilities of these natural dyes and to establish new knowledge for further research to be based on. During the development of the project several plants were selected for trial, based on the information we found in our research references and verbal advise from local experts. The project is thus based on old traditions and local cultural heritage that have led us to discover future possibilities of sustainable processes, greatly enhanced by the use of cutting-edge modern technology. Samples of these plants were gathered and produced on a small scale to test how the process worked on the fish skin and which colours they gave. The results have been quite promising, confirming the suitability of these local plants for dyeing the fish skin and providing a base for a colour range of natural dyes from Icelandic flora for fish skin. The aim is to continue to develop the method and start a production of fish skins in this palette of colours. Innovation towards more sustainable production as this one benefits all. It can create jobs and provide both a cultural and economic value to our society.