It's no secret that fish skins are processed on an industrial scale. Capture fisheries production has spiked from 69 million to 93 million tons, and aquaculture fish production from five million to an astonishing 63 million tons, according to the World Bank. And to extrapolate one ton of fish fillets producing approximately 40kg of discarded skin, thousands of tons can be put to many different uses.
Considering the beautiful patters and iridescence of many fish skins, and their flexible qualities, global fashion houses including Prada, Dior and Ferragamo are looking into their uses as a viable form of leather. Footwear giants Puma and Nike are also involved, combining pieces of fish leather with regular leather.
As a result, Icelandic fish-leather company Atlantic Leather, which has been in the fish-leather business for 20 years, has seen business grow due to its high-profile clients. Many other smaller designers are capitalising on this growing niche market and seeing the benefits of fish leather due to the small skins and range of colours. And while prices are similar to other leathers, a buyer isn't obligated to invest in as much since the quantities can be smaller.
The market for fish leather is still in its infancy and will never grow to the proportions of mainstream leather as a result of factors such as sustainability challenges and competition from fish-meal companies, but as a specialist skin, the trend is gaining momentum.