Salmon skin: it’s not just for sushi anymore.
Ever wonder what happens to that skin that was once part of your lox, dinner or the fishy pate in a tube that you were brave enough to buy while passing by the food market in Ikea? Well, it turns out that it usually just discarded after salmon is harvested.
But two fashion designers, Heidi Carneau and Adèle Taylor, have decided salmon skin is a beautiful and resilient material for their fashion accessories. With years of designing leather goods under their belts, the two long-time friends have joined forces and now design handbags and wallets using more sustainable options than conventional leather, including the skins of salmon and eel. Together they launched their own designer line, Heidi & Adèle.
The duo’s first use of salmon leather started with card holders; recently they have begun to craft larger items such as clutches. While Heidi & Adèle still uses some conventionally sourced leather, more of the company’s designs are including what was once just considered a waste by-product of the fishing industry. According to the marketing and design site PSFK, the company buys salmon skin from Iceland. Eel skin, another material found in many of Heidi & Adèle’s designs, is sourced from a farm in Korea.
So why use the skins of fish? Conventional leather, also a by-product of the meatpacking industry, has long been criticized for its social and environmental footprints. Opinions on leather’s environmental footprint (and its fake alternatives, including “pleather”) are all over the map. The tanning of leather has a massive environmental footprint, especially in countries where environmental regulations are more lax. Wastewater, air pollution and toxins from chemicals used in the leather tanning and dyeing process are all downsides of the industry. On the other hand, advocates for fish leather tout its flexibility, durability and how quickly it takes to dyes compared to other types of leather. And what was often dumped back into the ocean or landfill is now scoring a second use.
The finish and texture of salmon skin also offer a more exotic touch—without the dubious practice of hunting what are often threatened or endangered species such as crocodiles and pythons. Heidi & Adèle has pledged never to use hides from endangered species in their designs.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Image credit: Heidi & Adèle