“A new form of expression for the modern, sophisticated, stylish woman” is how Heidi & Adele describe their 18-month old accessories business. Their unique selling point? Remnants of discarded fish skins that are traditionally used to make fishmeal paste for animals.
While traditional leather handbags don’t phase consumers, they might be hesitant about a clutch made from scaly-amphibian-leftovers. However, fish leather is a cheap environmentally friendly alternative to the high demand of cow-leather; that industry will be worth £32bn in 2020. The World Bank reports that fish production has escalated from 5m to 63m tonnes in the last thirty years. That’s potential for a lot of scaly accessories.
Furthermore, cows are the biggest emitter of methane gas quickly destroying our ozone layer. According to The Independent, it takes a “staggering 990 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.” Heidi Carneau and Adele Taylor swim with the sharks as famous brands such as Nike, Prada and Dior also adopt fish leather because of the toxic leather tanning process. Brands too are looking for more ecological fabrics with prospects for a niche market.
(If you’re squeamish, look away now.) Working with an Icelandic salmon factory and an eel-processing plant in Korea, the eco-exotic range includes bags, purses and wallets. Will my £160 eel-bag attract stray cats with its fishy-odour? However, while H&A label themselves as “upholding the values of ethical trading and sustainable sourcing” creating ‘eco-exotic’ products, the food industry’s by-product is actually already being environmentally reused, so fish leather doesn’t seem to solve a waste problem.
But it could help save our ozone layer.