“We need to promote the recovery, repairing, reusing, recycling and upcycling of products and materials integrating them in our collections.”
Why is important to make the luxury fashion industry more sustainable?
The fashion industry needs to reflect on its overconsumption model and the waste it generates, while we designers need to commit to reverse the damage done to the planet by being more mindful of the impact of our decisions. We also need to promote the recovery, repairing, reusing, recycling and upcycling of products and materials integrating them in our collections by using a combination of traditional craftsmanship and higher technology techniques. This is important because craftsmanship and artisanal training programmes promote the use of handwork techniques, safeguarding the rich heritage of the luxury industry.
How did you become interested in fish leather as a material?
My fish skin research draws on the design practice that was instigated whilst working as Head of the Design Studio at John Galliano, where we developed fish leather garments for John Galliano and Christian Dior collections in 2002. We were amongst the first brands to use fish leather and by doing so, we positioned this barely known sustainable material within the context of the luxury industry.
Currently, I am involved in an European-funded project called “FISHSKIN”, which emerged from a personal design interest in the potential use of fish leather as a new alternative raw material for the fashion industry.
I am also a PhD fellow at London College of Fashion, Centre for Sustainable Fashion since 2017. My doctoral research explores fish leather sustainability and craftsmanship from the perspective of the Northern indigenous communities using an interdisciplinary approach between anthropology, ethnography, and environmental protection to address current global issues of fashion sustainability.
In 2018, I collaborated with the tannery Atlantic Leather in the development of ‘Fishskinlab’ as part of the Worth Partnership Project funded by the European Commission, EASME, under COSME 2014-2020, to produce a collection of bags made of fish leather, developing new embellishments and eco-friendly digital printing.
What is the Consortium trying to achieve with the Horizon 2020 FISHSkin project?
The project focus on enhancing the sustainability of fish leather as a raw material suitable for the fashion and luxury markets. Fish leather can help meet the demand for sustainable materials and processes that can, in return, support a circular economy within the industry as brands and fashion houses leave behind the use of environmentally damaging practices.
Bringing together academic and industry experts from areas as diverse as fashion design, material science or marine biology, the project develops new sustainable techniques and processes for a market take-up of fish leather. Traditional heritage techniques for fish skin tanning are also examined, researched and documented through a modern scientific prism.
So far, we have produced fish leather samples using variations of indigo and natural dying techniques in collaboration with Japanese craftspeople, as well as contemporary techniques of UV light and water-ink digital printing. We are also working on more environmentally friendly tanning and dyeing processes and we will soon have prototypes of accessories in fish leather to show to the industry and interested parties.
What is it like to work with ViaTalenta on the Horizon 2020 FISHSkin Consortium?
ViaTalenta has brought a breath of fresh air to the project, as well as a strong commitment and organisation skills. I am very interested in bringing together my previous work researching Arctic indigenous peoples’ fish skin cultural, environmental, spiritual, and technological significance with ViaTalenta’s efforts to promote the work of local craftsmen through educational and local economic development programmes.
ViaTalenta Academy is also very close to my own purpose at Central Saint Martins to prepare students for ‘jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented to solve problems that have not yet been explored without forgetting where we come from’.